Tyler Johnson's Imminent Return, Suspension Night in the NHL, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Tyler Johnson’s Imminent Return, Suspension Night in the NHL, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

We get actual Blackhawks hockey to talk about tonight, when the team travels to take on the Edmonton Oilers. It’s the first game following the NHL All-Star break with the Blackhawks having a 16-23-7 record, sitting in seventh-place in the Central Division and 14th in the Western Conference based on point-percentage. They’re 13 points behind the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference and have played 46 games, only Vancouver (47) has played more than Chicago among the teams in the Western Conference wildcard race. They’re also 1-5-2 in their last eight games.

•   Oh, sorry, you probably want to hear some good news. Well it appears as if Tyler Johnson is very close to returning to the lineup after participating in practice yesterday without restrictions.

•   Johnson has been away from the team since October 29, pre-dating the Derek King era in Chicago. He had neck surgery in early December and looks to be ready to come back to the lineup soon. He’s been missed. Chicago’s depth at the center position without Johnson has been spotty at best and with Jonathan Toews out of the lineup due to being in concussion protocol, the need for someone like Johnson to come back into the lineup is huge for Chicago. Although it’s clearly too little, too late.

•   Speaking of Toews, he will not be with the team on their road trip that sees them head to Edmonton tonight, St. Louis on Saturday, and Winnipeg on Monday.

•   Toews has been involved in off-ice workouts since being in concussion protocol, so that’s at least a small good sign.

•   We are beyond the NHL All-Star break, so NHL Taxi Squads are no more. But yesterday, the Blackhawks shifted around four players with Collin Delia headed back to the AHL and three players coming up from the Rockford IceHogs.

•   It appears that Galvas and Slavin will be jumping right into the lineup based on yesterday’s lines and pairings in practice. It’s that time of the season when the young players start getting more ice-time since the season is out of reach and trades will soon be upon us. That is, once a GM is in position to make trades.

•   I you have admire the professionalism at least. The team isn’t “actively” throwing in the towel on the season yet, especially since some of them are probably playing to get onto a contending team by March 21.

•   We’ve reached the point of the season where the team-success stops becoming the focus, and the progress of individual efforts has the light shone upon them.

•   Derek King has been with the Blackhawks organization since the 2016-17 season when he became an assistant coach with the Rockford IceHogs. King spoke yesterday regarding the news of the firing of long-time head athletic trainer D.J. Jones:

•   King also expanded on what the organization has been doing to improve the culture in his time here.

•   It’s good to hear and acknowledge those types of things from the head coach, whether he’s going to be in that role beyond the rest of this season or not.

•   Speaking of Rockford, the team announced a multi-year partnership with the Hard Rock Casino in Rockford yesterday that includes a new VIP Suite at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

•   Exciting stuff.

•   Tough news for the comeback efforts of Tuukka Rask:

•   And it went from bad to worse for the Bruins yesterday following the news of Rask’s potential re-retirement. Brad Marchand and Tristan Jarry had some beef on the ice last night, starting with Marchand being a jerk (what’s new) and denying a Penguins fan in Boston a puck tossed to them from NHL All-Star Tristan Jarry…

https://twitter.com/BradyTrett/status/1491232274339483649?s=20&t=aVQ9VmFQ83-Qz5Oehz1t4A

•   Ok, fine, have your yucks. But it got more serious when Marchand sucker-punched Jarry late in the third period, following it up with a stick swing towards Jarry’s face on his way off the ice.

•   If you’re new here, this is par for the course from Marchand. He’s the worst. The NHL Department of Player Safety will have an in-person hearing with Marchand, who is a long-time repeat offender, with the potential for at least a five-game suspension on the table.

•   Good.

•   Also looking at a suspension is Minnesota Wild forward Marcus Foligno after his fight with Winnipeg’s Adam Lowry ended with a knee to the upper-body of Lowry.

•   Last I checked, that was only allowed in Pride FC, which the NHL is not. Foligno is also going to have a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety.

•   Is fighting in hockey stupid? To a large degree, yes. Is it going to be taken out of the game? Not anytime soon. But garbage like what Marchand and Foligno pulled last night needs to be punished by the league, otherwise cheap-shots will continue. Rabble rabble rabble, we have these same conversations every few weeks and nothing changes.

•   On this day in 1966, the NHL announces the first-ever expansion from the Original Six teams.

•   Wonder if in 1966, the league ever thought they would have 32 teams?

•   Some more milestones for you, last night was Blackhawks 2021 draft pick Ethan Del Mastro’s 100th game with the Mississauga Steelheads!

https://twitter.com/OHLSteelheads/status/1491426683366551556?s=20&t=aVQ9VmFQ83-Qz5Oehz1t4A

•   Congratulations to Ethan, who has five goals and 33 points in 43 games with the Steelheads this season.

•   Also congratulations are in order for the Denmark Men’s hockey team, playing in and winning their first Olympic game earlier this morning with a 2-1 win over Czechia! (Czech Republic? I’m not sure what they are going by now)

•   Denmark is Captained by former Blackhawks and IceHogs forward Peter Regin. How about that!

•   The U.S. Men’s team plays tomorrow morning in their first game of the tournament against China. While the Women’s U.S. team plays Czechia/Cezch Republic in the quarterfinals of their tournament late tomorrow night.

•   Early we mentioned trade season coming for the Blackhawks, soon. In the NBA, it’s already whacky season!

•   It’s funny because it’s true…

•   That will do it for today. Hope you all enjoy your Wednesday.

•   We will see you later tonight for Blackhawks-Oilers at 7:00 p.m. CT!



Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.