There was something different about the Chicago Blackhawks’ open practice on Wednesday. Everyone who was healthy was accounted for, but there was an addition. Jimmy Hayes, who made his NHL debut last season with the Blackhawks, had been called up from the Rockford IceHogs on Tuesday and was readying himself for his first NHL game of the season. He was placed on the second line with Patrick Kane and Dave Bolland.
Hayes debuted with the Blackhawks in December 2011 and played 31 games with the Blackhawks, although he only scored five goals and nine points. In this current season, he’s been a man on fire with the IceHogs, scoring 22 goals, including a hat trick last weekend, and 39 points in 58 games. He’s become a more physical player, making more shots on goal and going to the net, netting him his abundance of goals so far.
The reason Hayes was brought into the fold was due to something that probably contributed to the Blackhawks’ two losses. Because of Patrick Sharp’s injury, coach Joel Quenneville had to stir up his lines, which had been stable for the majority of the Hawks’ points streak and was a big factor in their success. Scrambling the lines to make up for Sharp’s loss brought imbalance to them, and the constant switching during the game didn’t help matters. With Hayes on the second line alongside Kane and Bolland, he can be as effective at scoring as Sharp had been (or tried to be, according to all the crossbar hits he made). He also shifts the bottom two lines back to their original members, bringing stability back to them.
Now that the Blackhawks are stable in their lines, they can get back to working on their game. Their next opponent is the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have been strong lately. Hayes’ presence couldn’t have come at a better time. A win is what the Blackhawks sorely need to stay on top.