Chicago Blackhawks: Viktor Svedberg Returns To Big Club
By Colin Likas
Apparently, at least one member of the Chicago Blackhawks needs a little more time to rest before returning from the All-Star break. That would be defenseman Michal Rozsival, who is “nursing a lower-body injury,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus. As a result, the Blackhawks have recalled Viktor Svedberg from the Rockford IceHogs.
Rozsival last played two Sundays ago against the St. Louis Blues, recording a normal 16:15 of ice time. He and Rob Scuderi had their normal rotation for the following Tuesday’s game at Carolina, so it didn’t appear anything was amiss for Rozsival, who has been surprisingly healthy since his return from a gruesome ankle injury in the 2015 postseason. Of course, not having to play every game makes that more likely.
For Svedberg, this is his first return to Chicago since being demoted after starting the season with the Blackhawks. The hulking 6-foot-9, 225-pound 24-year-old netted 15 games his first time around, recording his first NHL goal and an assist to go with a minus-1 rating. It remains to be seen how long Rozsival will be sidelined, so it also remains to be seen how much of Svedberg we’ll get.
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The biggest ding against him in his first go-round with the Blackhawks was that he’s not a fast guy. And that isn’t surprising, considering how big Svedberg is. When I took in Saturday’s IceHogs-Chicago Wolves game, Svedberg looked a little quicker (and, somehow, even bigger) than he does on television, but that easily could’ve been a product of playing alongside non-NHL competition — though some of those guys could certainly play in the league right now.
Svedberg could go on a rotation with Scuderi, as Rozsival did, but the hope here is Svedberg sees as much time as he can, at least until he proves he can’t handle it. I don’t like the idea of calling a guy up from Rockford only to put him in a rotation. When Erik Gustafsson was called up for the second time, he was inserted in the starting lineup and has stayed there. Now, to be fair, Gustafsson has been quite a bit better than expected. I don’t think Svedberg will have the same impact on the Blackhawks. But would he be an upgrade over Scuderi? In some ways, certainly. And it’s always better to let the young guy actually skate and the elder statesman get a breather.
Frighteningly, we could see a Svedberg-Trevor van Riemsdyk pairing. The only alternative would be for Joel Quenneville to break up the top pairing of Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson, which is constantly tasked with taking the toughest assignments. Hjalmarsson with Svedberg would make some sense with both of them being Swedish, but TVR alongside Keith would probably make for some problematic odd-man rushes.
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How Svedberg fares this second time around with the Blackhawks is anyone’s guess. He’d be well advised to stay within himself if he plays tonight against the Colorado Avalanche, a speedy team that could burn Svedberg if he gets out of position, even a little bit. No one should expect Svedberg to come in and douse opponents with goals or thunderous hits on a shift-by-shift basis. If Svedberg goes through this run being relatively unnoticeable, that would be a victory for the Blackhawks.