PITTSBURGH — Mike Kostka found himself in a strange situation on Sunday afternoon.
The Chicago Blackhawks defenseman was originally scheduled to be a scratch against the Detroit Red Wings until just before game time. Then he was put into the lineup — as a forward.
Some forward experience, Kostka?
“Zero,” the 27-year-old said with a smile. “Maybe when I was 7 or 8. Something came up and they needed me. I had to learn quickly.”
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Kostka was back at his familiar blue-line spot on Monday, however, when the Blackhawks lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a shootout. Kostka logged 21 minutes, 39 seconds of ice time, with an assist, a hit and a blocked shot. Coach Joel Quenneville said Kostka is “in the mix,” regarding a roster spot, but Kostka missed a few days after a nasty hit from Detroit forward Teemu Pulkkinen last week. Now feeling better — he suffered just a stiff neck but no concussion — Kostka just wants to make the most of these remaining opportunities.
“I’m just happy I was able to get back in and hopefully get in another game or so here before the end of camp,” he said. “It could’ve been a lot worse; I try to keep it in perspective.”
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Regardless of preseason games missed, Quenneville liked what he saw in Kostka even in practices and scrimmages.
“He’s composed and brings a nice dimension on the back end on the offensive side as well,” he said. “He did a good job in Toronto and I just think he can play in a lot of different situations for us.”
Michal Handzus is the Blackhawks’ likely starter at No. 2 center when the regular season begins on Oct. 1. Handzus has been skating and practicing during camp but has not played in any scrimmages or preseason games.
Marian Hossa is feeling better, Quenneville said, and could start skating again on Wednesday.
Quenneville said the Blackhawks will cut more players from their training camp roster on Tuesday.