After an endless string of injuries that forced the Blackhawks to field the worst lineup in franchise history, acquire a pair of emergency skaters to fill out those lines, and call up multiple AHL prospects, the eye of the storm may have finally passed. When Chicago takes the ice against the Stars Saturday night, they’ll do so with one of their most crucial skaters back in the lineup – defenseman Seth Jones.
Jones left the Blackhawks’ game against the Capitals on December 10th with what appeared to be a shoulder injury that would sideline him for two weeks. Upon further testing, though, his ailment proved to be an SC joint injury with a no-contact timeline of four weeks. He was placed on injured reserve on December 16th, and after missing 15 games, will finally return without limitations.
Jones is primarily known in Chicago for his stifling $9.5 million cap hit and contract that runs through 2030. Many feel the long-term nature of his deal may hamper the Blackhawks’ chances of building a perennial contender. However, there’s no question that, at least for now, Jones is well worth his hefty price tag. He’s predominantly used as a minute-muncher on the top defensive line – his 25:25 of ice time per game ranks fourth in the entire NHL. He’s routinely matched up on the opposition’s best skaters, and the 29-year-old’s veteran experience is a major boost both on and off the ice.
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With Jones back in full force, the Blackhawks are finally healthy on the defensive end. While the offensive lines are still a jumbled mess with a handful of players out due to injury, the Blackhawks could certainly use some sense of defensive stability, and they finally have it. Jones is expected to return to the top line alongside Alex Vlasic, which is a great combination for the Blackhawks to enjoy both short-term and long-term success. Vlasic has developed into an excellent NHLer, and at least some of that can be attributed to Jones’s stabilizing veteran presence and on-ice dominance. With Jones back in the lineup, Jarred Tinordi will be scratched from the lineup, at least for the time being.
As Jones returns to the lineup, he represents one more skater off of IR, lowering Chicago’s total to six. For a team that recently had more of its salary cap tied to players on that list than healthy, a win is a win. His dominant presence will certainly be appreciated in the Blackhawks’ darkest hour.