Connor Murphy close to returning, Blackhawks talk Seattle expansion

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Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy (5) in the third period of an NHL hockey game Friday, March 30, 2018, in Denver. The Avalanche won 5-0. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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by Scott King

Connor Murphy, who hasn’t played yet this season (back), joined the Blackhawks again for practice on Tuesday at the team’s MB Financial facility.

Chicago head coach Jeremy Colliton said Murphy will travel West with the team for the back-to-back against the Ducks (Wednesday) and Golden Knights (Thursday).

The Hawks have been missing the physical defenseman and could use his help clearing the crease.

“I just got back into some contact and stuff, so that’s a good sign,” Murphy said. “And now, [it’s] just about feeling good and having trust from the coaches to play. Hopefully it’s sooner than later I guess.”

Seattle will hold their expansion draft in June of 2021 ahead of their inaugural season (2021-2022). The Arizona Coyotes will join the Central division with the addition of a 32nd team.”

I guess a few more Arizona trips,” Colliton said. “It’s down the road obviously, so not worried about it right now, but nice to have another team in the league and it’s good for a lot of people, an extra opportunity. Seattle [is] a great market.”

Colliton, who played with the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL, made trips to Seattle to take on the Thunderbirds. “The Western league presence is large and a lot of hockey fans out there,” Colliton said. “I’m sure it’ll be a success.”

“I just heard that actually,” Patrick Kane said of the newest expansion team. “I’ve never been, so I don’t know much about the city. Don’t know much about the area too much. [I] know the fans are pretty passionate for the Seahawks, so that’ll be pretty exciting. It seems like a pretty good location and hopefully they’re hockey hungry there.”

Kane realized the new alignment will have the Hawks seeing some old familiar faces on a regular basis.

“I don’t really know too much about this, just kind of finding out this stuff right now,” Kane said. “But I guess the initial reaction is you’re going to be playing a lot of former teammates, [would] be nice to travel to warm weather a little bit. That’s a team that’s up-and-coming too so just makes the Central that much tougher.”

Blackhaws goaltender Corey Crawford believes the move could give the NHL some interesting options down the road.That gives you eight in each division.

“You can maybe even go an NFL setup, go four a division,” Crawford said. “You know what I mean? Maybe a little less travel, get teams that are a little closer to you. I don’t know how the mapping works out, who knows? Maybe like an NFL style standing, maybe that could work too.”

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