AHL call-up Jimmy Hayes gets big shot with Blackhawks
BY MARK LAZERUS email@example.com March 13, 2013 8:32PM
HAWKS AT BLUE JACKETs
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Updated: March 13, 2013 9:10PM
Daniel Carcillo’s leg injury in the first game of the season allowed Brandon Saad to step into a dream gig, skating alongside Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa on the Blackhawks’ top line. Saad never looked back, almost instantly looking like the genuine top-liner he was forecasted to be.
Jimmy Hayes only can hope playing alongside Patrick Kane has the same effect on his career.
Hayes was called up from the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs on Tuesday and will step into the big skates of Patrick Sharp, who’s out for at least a few more weeks with an apparent shoulder injury. The 6-6, 221-pound Boston native — who had five goals and four assists in 31 games with the Hawks last season — will skate on the left wing of the second line, alongside Dave Bolland and Kane, the team’s leading scorer and a leading candidate for the Hart Trophy.
“He’s a really good player, so I’ve just got to stick to my game,” said Hayes, 23. “Just be big, physical and use my speed. He does all the puck work. He’s a magician with it. So I just have to read off of him.”
Hayes certainly has the tools to be an effective top-six forward. In 58 games with the IceHogs this season, he has 22 goals — tied with Jeremy Morin for the team lead — and 17 assists. As Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said, he’s “been on a tear” recently, even notching his first career hat trick.
Hayes said it’s part of a concerted effort to shoot more and go to the net more.
“I was struggling,” he said. “I only had six goals at the [end of the] lockout there, so I was taking it on myself to score goals. I was talking to [IceHogs coach Ted Dent], and Teddy told me, ‘You’ve got to shoot the puck and go to the net if you want to score.’ So I started to do that way more in my game, and it’s starting to reward me a little bit.”
Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said Hayes is a smart playmaker who can play anywhere in the lineup. But the biggest reason Hayes will get a crack on a premier line is because Quenneville doesn’t want to mess with what’s been working. Why shake up three or four lines when you can change one?
Hayes’ call-up allows Quenneville to reunite the effective third line of Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw and Viktor Stalberg. Bickell skated on the second line Thursday in Colorado, and Stalberg got his chance Sunday against the Oilers. They were back together Wednesday at Johnny’s IceHouse.
“Just watching them today in practice, it’s nice to see them back together,” Quenneville said. “They’re capable on a given night of being as good as anybody. [With] the lines being more familiar than the last couple games, hopefully we can recapture that enthusiasm we had when we started.”
Stalberg was glad for the chance to play on the second line — he pointed out that his line had three goals in the 6-5 loss — but he knows that trio has something special together.
“Our line has scored as much as any of the other lines,” he said. “So I’m not really too concerned about that. If we have those three offensive lines, or whatever you want to call it, we get more balance throughout the lineup. It’s not bad. … So it’s good to just insert a guy where Sharpie’s missing.”
It’s certainly good for Hayes, too, who gets to play with one of the league’s best in Kane.
“It gives you confidence,” Hayes said. “You want to go to the net and try to just get open for him. He’s a playmaker.”