There’s just one negative affecting three Blackhawks players every game: They don’t get to play.
With a healthy lineup for the first time this season, coach Joel Quenneville and more specifically, his assistant coaches, have the unenviable task of telling three players they aren’t suiting up for that night’s contest. It’s a pretty sinking feeling if you’re one of those three.
“Nobody wants to sit,” forward Colin Fraser stated.
Fraser is the tough luck guy once again. He played in 81 of 82 games last season and then sat in the playoffs. This year, he saw action in the Hawks first 55 games, and 60 of the first 61. He’s been on the bench for four of the last five.
“It’s the way it is around here,” Fraser said. “It’s the price you have to pay when you’re on such a deep team and one of the top three teams in the league. It’s a small price to pay to be on the best team in the league.”
“It is an exciting part of the year and you do want to be in the lineup,” Hendry said. “I just try to stay sharp in practice and work hard. Same in the weight room.”
“You try to keep a positive attitude and when you do get your chance to play, you have to, obviously, play well,” Fraser added. “Because if you don’t, you’re not going to stick around. Hopefully, when I get that chance, I can play my best game of the year and hopefully get rewarded from it.”
While there’s little chance Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews would be healthy scratches, there are plenty of “regulars” well aware of who is watching in street clothes, and they don’t want to be one of them.
“You make a couple bad decisions on the ice or you have a bad game -- there’s always that possibility that they could be slotted in,” Troy Brouwer said. “Nobody can get complacent. That’s kind of the beauty of this team. We have those guys, not even in the lineup, that can fit anywhere on this team.”
Quenneville knows what playing time means to players, and thought enough of it to address it with the team recently.
“Everybody is a big part of it whether you are playing or not,” Fraser recalls Quenneville saying. “You don’t want to bring the team down to a negative level, I guess you can say. I think everyone is OK with that down the stretch here. The No. 1 importance is winning games and getting first place. No one wants to be a bad team guy.”
“They know what type of guy I am. I’m not a yeller or screamer, or pouty kind of guy,” Fraser also said. “I just go about my business and try to make the best of it when I get my chance.”
“You hate to see other guys sit out, but at the same time, it’s fun skating with two other guys and we can play little games after practice or whatever,” Hendry said.
But make no mistake, he and the others that sit would like nothing more than to let someone else “play games” after practice, while the rest of the team prepares for the game. It’s also why he doesn’t go crazy the night before a game, even if he knows he’s not scheduled to play.
“You always have to be ready to play. Someone might get sick or something,” Hendry said. “[Someone] might twist an ankle getting on the bus. You just never know, so you have to stay ready.”
Fraser and Hendry might have to wait at least one more game to get back on the ice. Neither is scheduled to play in Philadelphia.