Buddy Robinson and Mike Hardman are 7 years apart — but in the same boat with the Chicago Blackhawks: ‘It’s nice to just pick his brain’

For Buddy Robinson, it took the perseverance of a journeyman and a bit of good timing.

For Mike Hardman, hard luck with injuries had kept him in the minors, though, ironically, it was injuries that presented an opportunity.

Both forwards found different paths from Rockford to Chicago, but they made the trip together, and Hardman is glad Robinson has been there for the journey.

“He’s been awesome with me this year,” said Hardman, who was called up Monday along with Robinson. “And he’s played a good many NHL games, and we’re in the hotel together and driving back and forth with each other. So it’s nice to just pick his brain.

“He’s like an older brother for me. He’s 31 years old, I’m 24, so it’s nice to kind of just ask him questions.”

Robinson embodies one of the reasons the Hawks have been able to plug in player after player after every injury or trade and keep, well, plugging. Despite spending most of his career in the AHL, he has the experience of four NHL teams. And he knows the other IceHogs whose call-ups preceded him, such as Lukas Reichel, Brett Seney and Cole Guttman.

“I’m a little older than most guys,” Robinson said. “So just being comfortable with the guys in the room and just going about it like any other day, right? It’s just another hockey game and I’m going to enjoy it as much as I can and hopefully make an impact.”

Hawks coach Luke Richardson has known Robinson since he coached him on the AHL Binghamton Senators for four seasons.

“I’ve had Buddy before in the American league when he first came out of college (Lake Superior State University), and seeing him graduate, play games in Ottawa and Calgary and watch him move around different organizations,” Richardson said.

“Sometimes you’re thinking, he’s a bad apple or something and people don’t want him — it’s the opposite. He’s a guy with a great attitude. He’s a guy who can skate and has size for the NHL.

“Is he an everyday NHL player? I hope he thinks he is and he keeps wanting to prove that. That’s why it’s a huge value to have him here, just to help guys like Mike keep that dream going, keep pushing, keep doing the right things.”

It was the NHL dream that key Hardman going when he was stalled by several injuries — including a fractured foot — and an illness that sidelined him for a week-plus in December and had lingering effects.

The setbacks took a mental toll.

“It was pretty frustrating,” he said. “But I think the biggest thing is just being patient and just keep playing that game down there.”

A wrist fracture cost Robinson 12 games in January and February. But since that time, the Hawks traded five everyday players and have had a rash of injuries, even to some of the recent additions, such as Cole Guttman and Anders Bjork.

Hardman can relate to their untimely injuries but said they’ve set good examples by taking advantage of their opportunities.

“A lot of guys are injured right now and got traded,” Hardman said. “But there’s a lot of older guys that have played in the minors for a while and have a lot of pro experience. So I wasn’t surprised at all that they came up here and did well. They’re all great guys and great teammates.”

Hardman played his first two games of the season this week after playing 21 last season.

Robinson also played second and third games of this season after appearing in the opener. He was brought in in part because his size matches up against heavy teams on the schedule.

“You know you’re bigger than the other guys out there is one good way to use it but using your size is more than just going out there fighting every night and blowing up guys,” he said.“You can use your size protecting pucks, getting on the forecheck first (and) D aren’t too comfortable with a guy coming down at 6-6, 240.”

Whatever it takes to get back to the big show at least one more time.

“Every time you get a chance to play in the NHL, you’ve got to take advantage, right?” Robinson said. “Enjoy the moment, go out here and have some fun.”

“I’ve done it a couple of times, got some games under my belt, so it’s just exciting to get another opportunity just to show that I can still do this and play at the highest level.”