Jonathan Toews and Dave Bolland will go on this final road trip, but both are out on Thursday night when the Blackhawks play the Minnesota Wild.
Toews, who has missed 20 games with a concussion, is close and could play Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings. When asked why Toews is out for Thursday, coach Joel Quenneville said its all part of the process. Quenneville said Minnesotas feistiness in their game Sunday there were some big hits, as well as three fights in the first half of the game had nothing to do with the decision.
For Toews, just getting back on the road is a start.
Thats step one, he said. Its better than staying home and sitting around by myself. Its not fun to be home watching on TV in my living room; guys go on the road and you miss out on a lot. I feel like Im a little bit closer to being in the picture again and its better than nothing. Hopefully that means Ill be playing soon.
Bolland, meanwhile, has an upper-body injury that Quenneville said is not serious. Bolland, who has not practiced the past two days with the Blackhawks, could play Saturday in Detroit.
Brendan Morrison filled Bollands spot on the checking line at Wednesdays practice.
Andrew Brunette (lower body) practiced on Wednesday and could play tomorrow in Minnesota. Corey Crawford will get the start.
The Blackhawks strengthened their organizational depth Thursday, announcing the signing of forward Nathan Noel to a three-year entry-level contract that kicks in next season and runs through the 2019-20 campaign.
Noel, a fourth-round draft pick (No. 113 overall) in 2016, tied a career high with 24 goals — including six game winners — and added 26 assists for 50 points in 52 games during his fourth regular season with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He was sidelined for a little more than a month in December and January due to an upper-body injury.
The 19-year-old center has raised his game in the postseason, racking up eight goals and 18 assists in 33 games from 2015-17, including six assists in 12 contests so far during the 2017 QMJHL playoffs. Across four years at Saint John, he amassed 208 points (85 goals, 123 assists) in 242 career regular-season games.
Noel is teammates with forward Matthew Highmore, who leads the Sea Dogs in scoring and was signed by the Blackhawks in March to a three-year deal as an undrafted free agent.
Noel is an undersized forward at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, but he's a fast skater with offensive upside. He'll likely start the 2017-18 season in the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs, who desperately needed scoring last year.
Nick Schmaltz will be joining Blackhawks teammate Trevor van Riemsdyk on Team USA at the 2017 IIHF World Championship, the club announced Thursday.
It will be his first career appearance on the U.S. men's national team and third time representing his country in world-championship play, most recently winning a bronze medal at the 2016 World Juniors. He scored two goals and added six assists in seven games during that tournament.
Schmaltz just completed his first professional season with the Blackhawks, where he tallied six goals and 22 assists in 61 games.
After the year ended, he spoke about the possibility of playing for USA in this tournament and what it would mean to him.
"I think it's a great tournament," Schmaltz said. "You get to play with a lot of great players. Look like a lot of great players are going to the tournament, so it's definitely a big stage. It would be a fun tournament."
The roster now includes 13 forwards, seven defensemen and three goaltenders. Among the other NHLers going for the Americans: Danny DeKeyser, Noah Hanifin, Jimmy Howard, Dylan Larkin, Anders Lee, Charlie McAvoy, Connor Murphy, Brock Nelson and Jacob Trouba.
Blackhawks forwards Marcus Kruger (Sweden) and Artemi Panarin (Russia) will also compete in the tournament, which begins May 5 and runs until May 21 in Cologne, Germany and Paris, France.