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Blackhawks coaches tell rookie Jimmy Hayes to use big body

Rookie Jimmy Hayes (39) celebrates his first NHL goal with 3:49 left third period. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Rookie Jimmy Hayes (39) celebrates his first NHL goal with 3:49 left in the third period. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 4, 2012 11:43AM

Coach Joel Quenne­ville and his staff had one ­message for Jimmy Hayes after his first NHL game.

“Be physical,” Hayes said.

It’s clear that Hayes will be judged by how well he uses his 6-6, 221-pound frame. The length of his run with the Blackhawks might depend on it.

“I just have to make sure I keep skating and I’m ­moving the puck all the time and make sure I’m playing the body,” said Hayes, who scored his first goal in his second career game Monday against the Edmonton Oilers. “I’m a big guy. I have to play the body.”

Hayes said it takes a certain mentality to play that way. It also helps Hayes that he played with veteran Jamal Mayers, who has made a career out of being physical, for the second game in a row. Hayes might earn top-six minutes at some point in his career, but he said playing with Mayers has been beneficial.

“The energy he has, he’s always ready to play,” Hayes said. “He’s really into the game. It’s kind of contagious, and you rub off on it.”

If he plays that way, does Hayes have a chance at sticking with the Hawks?

“You don’t want to lose that option [of sending him to Rockford], knowing that he’s still a young guy,” Quenneville said. “But if he deserves to play at our level, he looks like he’s comfortable and he can help us, you don’t want to say no.”

A look ahead

The Hawks signed 2011 first-round picks Mark McNeill (18th overall) and Phillip Danault (26th) to three-year, entry-level contracts.

McNeill and Danault, who are forwards, are expected to remain with their junior teams. Both were recently cut from Team Canada for the World Junior Championships.

“They both have a lot of upside,” Quenneville said. “We got to see them in camp. I haven’t really seen too much with how they’re doing this year, but we know their futures are bright. We’ll get to see them as we progress here. But certainly organizationally, it really gives us some strength and some depth.”

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