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Blackhawks’ Olesz, Scott, Lepisto have had trouble getting playing time

Rostislav Olesz (85) has played only two Hawks’ first eight games. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images

Rostislav Olesz (85) has played in only two of the Hawks’ first eight games. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images

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at Hurricanes
The facts: 6, CSN, 720-AM.

Updated: January 23, 2012 4:10AM

A Blackhawks fan and his wife were in an elevator last week at a hotel in Phoenix when they struck up a conversation with the man riding with them.

The couple asked him what he did for a living, and the man told them he played hockey.

‘‘Oh, really?’’ the couple said. ‘‘For what team?’’

The man pointed at the Blackhawks logo on the wife’s shirt and said, ‘‘Your wife’s team.’’

The player was Rostislav Olesz, and it would be hard to blame the two Hawks fans for not recognizing him. Olesz has played just 17 minutes, 48 seconds in two games this season and was scratched for the fifth game in a row Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

‘‘[It’s about] numbers,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said this week. ‘‘We like the lines right now and the roles, and that’s kind of where he’s at and where we’re at.’’

But with a $3.125 million cap hit, according to, Olesz is becoming an expensive regular scratch. The left winger, whom the Hawks acquired when they sent defenseman Brian Campbell and his $7.1 million cap hit to the Florida Panthers in June, has tried to stay positive and said he doesn’t feel any added pressure because of his salary.

‘‘I’m new on the team. I went through some injuries, so it’s up to Coach,’’ said Olesz, who worked during the summer to recover from a knee injury. ‘‘I can just take care of my part and practice hard and be ready; that’s what I’m
doing. It’s a great team. It’s tough to get in [the lineup].’’

Olesz isn’t alone in trying to crack the lineup. Enforcer John Scott and defenseman Sami Lepisto also have been consistent scratches this season.

Scott hasn’t dressed for six of the Hawks’ eight games, including when it might have made sense for him to play against Ducks enforcer George Parros.

‘‘I like to think I’d play against the bigger, tougher teams,’’ Scott said. ‘‘But you just can’t break up a team that’s on a roll, and I understand that.’’

It would be easy for Scott to be bitter about being left out of the lineup, especially because he has worked so hard to improve his skating, which has been the biggest criticism of his game. Scott has been on the ice 45 minutes before practice on non-game days, working with skating coach Kevin Delaney.

‘‘I want to play, so I’ve got to put the work in,’’ Scott said. ‘‘Not playing isn’t what I want, but you’ve got to put your ego aside and not get frustrated on the ice and not let the guys see you’re upset. You’ve got to suck it up and work hard and do what you’ve got to do.’’

With three games in the next four days starting Friday against the Carolina Hurricanes, Olesz, Scott and Lepisto will have their best chance to crack the lineup. Whether they do is up to Quenneville.

‘‘Everybody wants to play,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘At the same time, you’ve still got to be concerned with everybody that’s part of the group and part of the team. We’ll see how that goes, but we don’t change too much when things are going well.’’

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