Chicago Sun-Times (Sunday)

Bedard comes through in clutch defensivel­y


With 40 seconds left in the third period Saturday and the Blackhawks barely hanging on to a 3-2 lead over the Stars, who had an extra attacker on the ice, Hawks coach Luke Richardson sent Connor Bedard over the boards.

Bedard wouldn’t be used in that situation by most coaches. The rookie forward is not only inexperien­ced but also inconsiste­nt defensivel­y. But the Hawks want him to gain experience and consistenc­y in all three zones, so they’re willing to give him opportunit­ies to do so right now.

He came through this time, too, twice clearing the defensive zone — including a lofted clearance with the perfect touch to prevent icing — to help the Hawks run out the clock and seal the win.

“It shows Luke has some trust in me there,” Bedard said. “It’s a really important part of the game, and . . . it feels good to be trusted in that situation.”

Bedard said he focused on maintainin­g correct positionin­g within the Hawks’ five-on-six defensive structure and making smart plays when the puck came to him. He also logged nearly two minutes of ice time defending against an extra attacker in the Hawks’ last home win (March 26 against the Flames).

Richardson said he has advised Bedard, as well as every other player, to not sit back too much — despite the numerical disadvanta­ge — and to prioritize getting pucks behind the opponent rather than trying to make tape-to-tape passes whenever they do get possession.

“He likes ice time, so he’s eager to learn in this game to give himself more ice time,” Richardson said. “And he’s earning it.”

Raddysh scratched

For the first time this season, forward Taylor Raddysh — mired in a 41-game goal drought — was a healthy scratch. He has been stuck on five goals since mid-December after reaching the 20-goal threshold last season and just hasn’t looked remotely like the same player.

“[When] your confidence gets down, you start second-guessing,” Richardson said. “When you shoot, you should be passing, and when you pass, you should be shooting. A lot of times, it’s a mental thing; it’s not a physical thing. Sometimes you get a lucky one . . . but unfortunat­ely that just hasn’t happened for him.”

With Colin Blackwell returning from injury and Landon Slaggert needing to accumulate NHL experience, the Hawks have more available forwards right now than at any point this season, making it difficult to justify keeping Raddysh in the lineup.

“We have numbers now, and that’s just the name of pro hockey,” Richardson said. “I’d like to get him right back in . . . . Sometimes watching a game lights a fire and gets someone just over that hump. Hopefully that does that for him.”

This and that

Although Hawks forward prospect Nick Lardis signed a three-year entry-level contract Wednesday, he’s expected to return to the OHL next season, sliding the start of that contract to 2025.

X Arvid Soderblom likely will start in goal Sunday against the Wild, who just recalled top goalie prospect Jasper Wallstedt. He could make his second career NHL start in the other net.

X The Lightning clinched a playoff spot Friday, but the Hawks’ front office will again root against them in the first round, no matter their opponent. The Hawks own the Lightning’s first-round draft pick this year and would love it if that pick again fell near 19th, where they selected Oliver Moore last year.

 ?? MARK BLACK/AP ?? Hawks defenseman Wyatt Kaiser (44) and Stars forward Mavrik Bourque collide with Hawks goaltender Petr Mrazek on Saturday at the United Center.
MARK BLACK/AP Hawks defenseman Wyatt Kaiser (44) and Stars forward Mavrik Bourque collide with Hawks goaltender Petr Mrazek on Saturday at the United Center.

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