Tommy Wingels returns to the United Center
by Scott King
Fans may not have wanted the Blackhawks to part with Tommy Wingels, who returned to the United Center Sunday for the first time since being traded to the Boston Bruins on February 26.
The Wilmette native may not have wanted to leave either, but after playing for the San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators, Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins in the past 14 months, he’s learned to adjust to new beginnings, even though it can be tricky.
“I don’t know if it’s something you get used to,” the 29-year-old forward said. “Each situation is different, each opportunity joining a new team is an opportunity to get re-acclimated, to meet new guys, to make an impact on a new team. At the same time, I feel like I can do it.
“I can join a new team. Part of that is because I’m laid back, I think I fit in well easily. It is tough at times, but this is a good group, they welcomed me with [open] arms. It’s a really good team, good leadership, high compete level, good resiliency… So it’s real easy to fit in.”
The forward was one of this season’s few consistently good Hawks players, but the organization couldn’t turn down a conditional fifth round pick for a player that becomes a unrestricted free agent after a season in which they have very little chance to make the playoffs.
Wingels had seven goals and five assists in 57 games with Chicago this season. The winger was hard on pucks, regularly crashed the net and provided an edge the team could utilize when things got hairy.
“I liked him a lot,” Patrick Kane said. “I thought he was a great guy. You can tell he’s had some success in his career as far as leadership goes. I think he liked playing for his hometown team too.
“I thought he did great things here. Especially, he was probably expected to play more of a wing position, he played center and did it pretty well… That fourth line with (John) Hayden, him and (Lance) Bouma was pretty effective for a long time. I thought he did a great job.”
It’s possible he returns to the Windy City after this year. He wouldn’t discuss his future much before the game, but was happy to be back on the Blackhawks’ ice Sunday.
“It’s only been a week and a half, but it’s been a fun week,” Wingels said. “This team’s really good, obviously. The schedule worked out nicely playing Chicago at home yesterday and here now. It’s certainly one you get up for. It’s fun to play your ex-teammates, come back to Chicago, play here in front of friends and family again, definitely one I’ve been looking forward to the last couple days.”
The New Trier grad’s game has fit in well with the Bruins, who are poised to contend for a Stanley Cup this season. He has a goal and two assists in five games with Boston.
“It’s a hungry team,” Wingels said. “I think it’s a blue-collar work ethic. Guys go out and do their job and let the next guy do their job. A lot of skill players that compete like crazy. Resiliency with this team is incredible.”
Artem Anisimov scored the first goal of Sunday’s game at 7:26 in the first period by deflecting a rocket from Jonathan Toews. Zdeno Chara evened it up for the Bruins at 1-1 around the midway point of the third period.
Kane soon fully redeemed himself for his folly late in Saturday’s game.
The game was tied 4-4 in the third period in Boston, when Kane took a double-minor high-sticking penalty that gave the Bruins two goals. Boston scored on an empty Hawks net late in the final period and won.
Sunday was a reversal of fortune as Kane scored a Hawks power-play goal on Chara’s high-sticking double minor of Brandon Saad. It was his 25th goal of the season. Brent Seabrook added another power-play goal for some cushion and the Hawks won 3-1.
“It’s nice to have that opportunity with three-and-a-half minutes left when you have a four-minute power play,” Kane said. “Maybe get a chance to win it. Thought the power play [did] pretty good today. We had some chances, had some good looks and nice to get a couple in too.”
Golden welcome reception
The Blackhawks gave a pregame salute to 2018 Team USA Women’s Hockey gold medalists Kendall Coyne and Alex Rigsby on Sunday.
John Hayden was recalled by the Hawks on Saturday after Vinnie Hinostroza had a family matter to attend to. It only took Hayden two periods to screen a goal, fight and score in Boston on Saturday.
He fought Sean Kuraly six minutes into Saturday’s game vs. Boston, provided a screen for the Hawks’ second goal of the game from Jordan Oesterle late in the first period that made it 2-2 and scored at 6:37 in the second period. The Hawks went on to lose 7-4 in Boston.
In Sunday’s game he also seemed to screen two Hawks goals.
Hayden had three goals and eight assists in 39 games with the Hawks before being assigned to Rockford. He had five goals and nine assists in 22 games with the IceHogs after the assignment.
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