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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Brian Sandalow

Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson wants Ian Mitchell to play to his strengths

Ian Mitchell returned to the Blackhawks’ lineup Sunday night. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

A healthy scratch in the Blackhawks’ previous three games, defenseman Ian Mitchell drew back in Sunday against the Sharks. 

Listed at just 5-11 and 193 pounds, Mitchell will never be confused with a big, rugged blueliner. Instead, coach Luke Richardson wants to see Mitchell play to his strengths rather than trying to battle with opponents who are considerably heavier.

“Really, you just have to be smarter and get them in a position where they cut back, get through their hands and get going,” Richardson said. “So that’s how he’s going to have to play defense and that works to his game. We’ve talked about it, and he’s just got to make sure that he tries to really put that into his game plan, that he’s not defending a lot. Not that he’s terrible, he competes, it’s just that his game is moving the puck and playing offense and shooting the puck, so that’s what we want to see.”

Learning how to play that way can be tough for young players, and figuring out that method might be a key for Mitchell. Richardson recalled how smaller defensemen like Kimmo Timonen and Tobias Enström avoided physical confrontations they would lose because they were strong skaters adept at getting in good positions to go through an adversary’s hands.

“Sometimes that’s awkward for a bigger guy,” Richardson said. “A guy gets right underneath you and you can’t really do much. You can’t cross-check in this league anymore, so it actually works well for a smaller guy if you’re smart about it.”

Mitchell took the place of Caleb Jones and was expected to play on the Hawks’ second power-play unit.

Prospect pains

A pair of Hawks prospects suffered injuries that will keep them out of action for a while.

On Saturday, the IceHogs announced that goalie Arvid Soderblom was placed on injured reserve due to a groin injury, retroactive to Dec. 28. Rockford said Soderblom is expected to return in 2-3 weeks.

Meanwhile, playing for Canada against Sweden in the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, forward Colton Dach took a hit along the boards during the Canadians’ game Saturday and left the game. On Sunday, Dach was removed from the Canada roster.

Currently with WHL Kelowna, Dach followed in his brother’s footsteps in getting hurt playing for the Canadian junior team. Kirby Dach needed right wrist surgery after a collision during a Dec. 2020 pre-World Junior tournament game against Russia.

If needed

Sunday was the start of a seven-game homestand — and the IceHogs aren’t on the road until Jan. 7 — and Richardson was asked if that could compel the Hawks to call players up to get a different look.

If there are players added, it won’t be for the sake of it.

“We have to make sure we don’t just call up someone for a call-up and he’s in the wrong position and the wrong opportunity,” Richardson said. “[Lukas] Reichel’s not going to come in and kill penalties and be on the fourth line, that’s an energy line. That’s kind of a waste for him and us, so we want to make sure that fits but if there’s an opportunity, I’m all ears with the management.”

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