Sunday, March 3, 2024

Blackhawks Forward Back In Lineup After “Wake-Up Call”, But Still Has To Earn Spot


After facing significant expectations following a great end to last season, Blackhawks forward Lukas Reichel’s year has begun almost as badly as possible. The 21-year-old has just two goals and four assists more than a quarter of the way through the season. He started the year at center, which could have been an excuse for his poor production, but a switch to his more natural wing spot didn’t have the change some had hoped. Reichel’s issues on the ice progressed to the point where he was listed as a healthy scratch for Sunday’s matinee against the Wild.

As the Blackhawks gear up for Tuesday night’s game against Nashville, Reichel finds himself back in the lineup. However, he’ll take the ice at the United Center with a change of scenery – he’s projected to join the Blackhawks’ fourth line alongside Ryan Donato and Mackenzie Entwistle.

Given his current spot in the lineup, it’s safe to say Reichel has been put on notice. Head coach Luke Richardson mentioned after Tuesday’s morning skate that this isn’t a case where the youngster is being “eased back into the lineup” after an injury or similar issue. Rather, Reichel is being sent the message that his time on the ice isn’t given – it’s earned.

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Reichel feels he needed the chance to regroup mentally after his slow start, and calls Sunday’s healthy scratch a “good wake-up call”:

It’s safe to say when Reichel gets back on the ice Tuesday night, he’ll do so with a re-ignited fire. Richardson said he was having a conversation with his young forward about whether he was ready to go back in, and said Reichel was “determined” before the game against the Predators. If Richardson’s assessment is correct (and it often is), watching a game from the press box is just what Reichel needed. If he shows a reinvigorated game Tuesday night, the offensive production will come, and with it, a steady stream of promotions.

The move to scratch Reichel from the lineup Sunday will only be an effective one if he’s forced to earn his spot back. From comments by him and Richardson, that’ll be the case, starting tonight. There’s little doubt that Reichel is still an excellent player and a cornerstone of the next several seasons in Chicago – he just needed to be reminded of that.

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