Mike Hardman gets his shot, but Dylan Strome’s outlook with the Chicago Blackhawks remains a mystery
The Chicago Blackhawks find themselves in a high-stakes home opener Tuesday night against the New York Islanders, but they’re confident enough to shake up the lineup and give a young forward a chance to make his season debut.
Only the final buzzer will tell if tinkering with the forward lines — including switching Brandon Hagel and Kirby Dach to the top line while moving Alex DeBrincat and Tyler Johnson to the third and fourth lines, respectively — will pay off for coach Jeremy Colliton.
And it will determine if Mike Hardman, playing in his ninth career game, drawing into the lineup is a better choice than giving Dylan Strome his first start of the season.
Hardman, who had a goal and two assists in eight games last season, naturally was thrilled about his opportunity.
“It’s a dream come true,” he said Monday after practice. “Last year I got to play in eight games, and the last two games there were some fans, but for it to be a home opener, hopefully it’s sold out and hopefully we get the ‘W.’ ”
In practice, Hardman played right wing with DeBrincat on the left and Henrik Borgström centering.
“Hopefully we stay together,” Hardman said. “Those are two really good players and really skilled.”
Of course, from DeBrincat’s perspective, it likely is a shock for someone who had been joined at the hip to Patrick Kane to be moved off that line, but the Hawks have just two goals in five-on-five situations through three games.
“I feel like we’re pretty deep this year,” DeBrincat said after Tuesday’s morning skate. “Any line you’re playing on, you have some good players and some skill guys that can make plays. It should be good. Obviously, the other thing wasn’t working, so you’ve got to change it up.”
DeBrincat has a goal and an assist — both on the power play — and said: “I’ve just got to be sharper, win more battles. Definitely not happy with my game.”
For Hardman, Colliton said he’s looking for “more of what he brought in camp.”
“Physical, hard game, direct, get the puck in, get on the forecheck,” Colliton said after the morning skate. “He’s a very intelligent, two-way player. We think he can help the guys he’s playing with.”
But that leaves Strome with his fourth healthy scratch to start the season, fueling rumors that the Hawks are preserving him for a possible trade.
Colliton said he talks with Strome.
“Probably not every day but that’s part of our job, right, making sure we’re checking into guys,” Colliton said. “He wants to play, just like anyone else. There are other guys in the same boat as well. He can’t control that, though. ... No one knows what tomorrow’s going to bring.”
Colliton declined to address the trade rumors.
“What we talk to him (about) on the ice or off the ice, he’s got to practice hard, prepare to play,” Colliton said. “That’s what he can do. And then the lineup, that’s up to us.
“Got to figure out daily what we think is our best chance to win. So that’s it.”