The Chicago Blackhawks will come off of their bye week over the weekend when they welcome the Edmonton Oilers to the United Center, and they will have two of their young players back after a brief stint in the minor leagues.
Those two players are forwards Tanner Kero and Nick Schmaltz, both of whom were sent down as part of a roster shuffle before the bye week.
Kero, who has four goals and four assists in 22 games with the Blackhawks this season, has been instrumental on the team’s penalty kill during his stint in Chicago, and he’s also become a very prominent bottom-six forward as the Blackhawks have finally begun hitting their stride as they won their final five games before the break.
As for Schmaltz, the winger seems to have been rejuvenated by his earlier stint in Rockford, finding a place alongside Jonathan Toews on the team’s top line. In 38 games with the Blackhawks this season, Schmaltz has four goals and six assists, and he’s been one of the biggest offensive weapons for the team since his recall earlier this year.
By sending down Schmaltz and Kero during the bye week, the Blackhawks banked some precious salary cap space before the trade deadline and also gave the players an opportunity to keep working over the break, both of which could be critical factors as the season enters its final stretch.
Two more players that the Blackhawks sent down did not make the return trip back to Chicago, as Vincent Hinostroza and Gustav Forsling were left with the Rockford IceHogs for the time being.
Hinostroza, who has six goals and eight assists in 46 games this season, has been in and out of the Blackhawks’ lineup recently, and the team may opt to keep him in Rockford in order to allow him to get consistent playing time ahead of the postseason.
As for Forsling, his demotion isn’t unexpected, as the Blackhawks activated Michal Rozsival from injured reserve before the bye week. Forsling will likely get a ton of minutes with the IceHogs, keeping him sharp in case he’s needed later in the season.
The Blackhawks will resume their season on Saturday night when they take on the Oilers at the United Center, and then will be right back in action Sunday as they travel to Buffalo to take on the Sabres.