The Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday returned to the practice rink to continue their preparations for the upcoming season. The team was hard at work on their power play woes, with Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell working together as a group, and Marian Hossa still wasn't on the ice for the team less than a week before the opener, but neither of those stories were the most intriguing of the day.
The most interesting storyline that developed during Wednesday's practice was forward Joakim Nordstrom skating with the team's fourth line, along with Marcus Kruger and Brandon Bollig. That by itself wouldn't be big news, but the accompanying story, tweeted by Mark Lazerus, is:
Morin and Pirri are on the outside looking in on line rushes right now. #Blackhawks
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) September 25, 2013
Jeremy Morin and Brandon Pirri have been considered to be strong contenders for the roster ever since the team jettisoned Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik over the offseason. Morin is a favorite of coach Joel Quenneville, and Pirri, while not a favorite of the staff, was the leading scorer in the AHL last season and at least warranted consideration at the second line center position.
Those guys not skating on a line isn't necessarily indicative of anything, but the fact that Pirri isn't getting at least some time with the second line may mean that his injury cost him a shot at the role, at least during the opening part of the season. Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune said in a column on Tuesday that the Hawks were "past the talent evaluation stage" of camp, which lends some credence to the notion that, however off the beaten path it may seem now, that Nordstrom might beat out Morin and Pirri for a spot on the Hawks' roster.
The question, then, is what role does the Swedish forward play? He isn't exactly a scorer, only scoring eight goals and dishing out eight assists in 101 games with the Swedish club AIK over the past three years.He did have a somewhat successful stint with the Rockford IceHogs last year, playing in 11 games and picking up three assists, but that still doesn't indicate that great things are in his future.
Even his size isn't necessarily an asset. He does stand 6'2", but he only weighs 181 pounds, and it isn't like he racks up the penalty minutes either. The most he's had in a season in the Swedish Elite League was 29 during the 2012-13 campaign.
While it could be easy to dismiss Nordstrom's skating on the fourth line as Quenneville allowing Morin and Pirri to work on other things, the possibility of him making the roster at this point cannot be overlooked.
The Blackhawks only have 26 players left on their training camp roster after Brad Winchester and Theo Peckham were sent down to the IceHogs on Wednesday. That means that there will only be three or four more cuts left, and so every player left at this point needs to be considered a
contender for a spot with the big club.
Ultimately, it still has to be considered a long shot for Nordstrom to actually be in the Hawks' lineup on opening night. He has been solid during the preseason, but he only has one goal on five shots, four hits, and two blocked shots in four games. Those numbers aren't exactly jump-off-the-statsheet good, but Quenneville and his staff could see something in him that Hawks scribes don't, and that could mean that he remains in Chicago while a guy like Morin and/or Pirri is sent packing.