The Chicago Blackhawks on Friday called up defenseman Ian Mitchell from the Rockford IceHogs.
Mitchell, 23, provides a reinforcement after some shaky performances among the Hawks’ young defensemen lately, particularly during a 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday.
The Hawks sent Alec Regula to Rockford on Thursday and have benched Caleb Jones indefinitely. Filip Roos also draws back into the lineup.
For Mitchell, who appears adequately recovered from a left wrist injury, it’s a critical opportunity in a contract year. He will be a restricted free agent after the season.
“Yeah, it’s huge,” Mitchell said. “It’s what you always worked for, and I’m hoping never to leave now. It’s definitely exciting and I’ve got a lot of work to do to earn that spot.”
Mitchell has played in 47 games for the Hawks, including eight last season, but he hasn’t suited up since Jan. 11 at the Columbus Blue Jackets.
He was likely to get another shot at the NHL, but he made the Hawks’ decision a no-brainer after a good showing in three recent games in Rockford, punctuated by a two-goal, two-assist performance Wednesday against the Grand Rapids Griffins.
“Yeah, (the wrist) felt pretty good,” Mitchell said. “It’s just nice to be back. It’s definitely nice to have that kind of a night after going through a couple of months of playing.
“I try not to set any expectations. I just wanted to do the things I did last year — just play simple and hard and move the puck and defend first and let my skill shine through when the time came. I was just happy to get back playing and get my feet back under me.”
Mitchell draws the toughest of assignments for his Hawks season debut Saturday in Boston. The Bruins have the league’s best record (15-2-0), powered by the top offense (four goals per game) and No. 1 penalty kill (91.7%).
“I know they have a good coach,” Mitchell said.” I had Monty (Jim Montgomery) for my first year at (the University of) Denver, so I don’t think it’s any surprise that they’re having a lot of success. It’s going to be a tough challenge for us for sure.”
Mitchell figures to play a role on the power play, though which unit — first or second — could depend on circumstances. Roos will be in the mix too.
“(It) might just depend on who’s fresher at the time of the whistle for the power play, but maybe we’ll just talk about it and decide, lefty (Roos) or righty (Mitchell, what makes more sense — and they’re both fresh coming in,” coach Luke Richardson said.
“Just a shooting mindset to start from the top is going to be good at the beginning to get them into that game and into that role. But we’ll make that decision maybe after morning skate or even during the game.”
Meanwhile, the moves represent a chance to reset for Regula and Jones.
“He had a rough last game,” Richardson said of Jones. “(The last goal) he probably should’ve killed that play in the neutral zone. He backed off and it ended up being in the net.
“We’re giving him a break just to regroup. He’s a good player; get him back thinking positive and playing aggressive.”
Richardson hopes Regula uses his time in Rockford to work on using his size more consistently in the defensive zone.
“He doesn’t have to pin (the puck carrier) four rows into the seats, but just hit, pin and kill the play,” Richardson said.
“We know it’s hard going in and out of the lineup and keeping your confidence level here, so better to play lots there (in Rockford), then when the time’s right, when we need him, get him back and give him another shot when he’s playing a lot, playing at a high level with confidence.”
Goalie Alex Stalock, who has been in the concussion protocol since being exiting a game Nov. 1, has “had good days and bad days,” Richardson said. Stalock has worked out on the ice in his recovery but has yet to practice with the team. … Forward Tyler Johnson, who has been on injured reserve since Oct. 27 with a left ankle injury, was “a little sore” Thursday after Wednesday’s optional skate. “He won’t play (Saturday), but there is a possibility he can play Sunday (against the Pittsburgh Penguins), which we’re hoping for,” Richardson said.