Dylan Strome’s return could cause a lineup dilemma for the Chicago Blackhawks — and the same goes for when Kirby Dach recovers from an injury

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Phil Thompson, Chicago Tribune
·3 min read
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The Chicago Blackhawks have been pleased with the progress of a couple of young centers who have been recovering from injuries.

It’s difficult to pinpoint when Kirby Dach will return from right wrist surgery, but signs have been positive.

“It’s been good to have him on the (road) trip,” Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton said.

“No timeline yet, but he’s closer than we thought in December. I don’t think anyone expected him to be joining us on the road here. We can’t put a date on it yet but definitely encouraged.”

Meanwhile, Dylan Strome cleared the concussion protocol and returned Thursday night as the Hawks began a two-game road series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He entered the game 2 minutes, 10 seconds into the first period on a line with Mattias Janmark and Pius Suter.

The return of Strome — and Dach, eventually — likely will create a domino effect among the forwards.

The Hawks have tried a variety of skaters to center the top line with Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat, including Suter, Philipp Kurashev and most recently David Kampf.

DeBrincat and Strome’s history dates to the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters, and DeBrincat had said it would be great to have his longtime friend rejoin the team.

“We’ve missed him, DeBrincat said. “He brings that offensive ability to our team and can make a lot of plays.

Strome has centered the Kane-DeBrincat line in the past, but Dach took over that role late last season and during the summer postseason.

“I guess we’ll find out,” DeBrincat said about how the lines shake out, “but both of those guys are great players, and anytime you get guys like that back, you’re excited.

“I guess you just have to build chemistry with the new line. We’ve all played with each other for a while now, and lines have rotated, so a lot of guys have played with a lot of different people. There should be some familiarity there.”

In the previous four games entering Thursday, DeBrincat shared lines with Kampf, Kurashev, Suter and Lucas Wallmark, with Colliton sometimes mixing up the lines during games to spark offense.

For much of the season, Kurashev and Suter switch roles between the Kane-DeBrincat line and others.

“Kampfy’s good on draws and really good in the D-zone, so he helps us spend less time there so we’re in the offensive zone more,” DeBrincat said. “Sutes and Kury, they can both make plays. Kurashev has a really good shot, so we can get him the puck.

“But I like to play with all of them, (it) just depends on what the other team’s throwing at us.”

Recently, Suter has centered the second line with Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Hagel. Kubalik has four goals and three assists in the last nine games, but Kampf has centered Kubalik and Hagel’s lines for some of those games.

It’s conceivable Suter could be bumped to the third line, but Suter and Kurashev’s ability to play center or wing could throw another wrinkle in future lineups.

Suter said whatever line he ends up with, he expects some aspects of his game to change.

“You want to play your game but also of course, if you’re on different lines, you have different roles too,” he said. “With Kane, I tried to create space for them, go to the net, be around the net for screens and play solid ‘D,’ too, so we get the puck back quicker so we can play.

“It’s pretty much the same with Kubalik but maybe be more on the puck sometimes and be more around the puck. I’m just trying to make good plays.”