Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Gustav Forsling could be ready to return from injury Sunday against the Montreal Canadiens, but he’ll miss the game on Saturday against the Minnesota Wild, reports the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus.
Forsling has already missed one game after suffering an upper-body injury against the Colorado Avalanche last week. The team has had to shake up its defensive pairings without him, sliding Jan Rutta over to the left side for the first time in his career. It appears he’ll stay there for Saturday’s game against Minnesota.
There have been mixed results for Forsling to open his second NHL season. He’s recorded four assists, 14 shots on goal, and a 45.2 percent 5-on-5 Corsi in 12 games. However, that final number can be deceiving as he’s been nudged into an increasingly difficult role as a sophomore. As The Athletic’s Tyler Dellow wrote Friday, Forsling has actually been among the bottom 20 in Expected Corsi based on his shift usage.
So his ability driving possession isn’t as bad as his raw 5-on-5 Corsi would indicate, and despite missing time, he’s still fourth among Hawks defensemen in points. Forsling may have his detractors, but for a 21-year-old with just 50 NHL games under his belt, there are reasons to be optimistic. That’s presumably why the team will keep pushing him rather than settle on turning to the likes of Jordan Oesterle.
The Blackhawks are going to have a logjam on defense no matter what when Forsling returns assuming Cody Franson stays in the lineup. Forsling can’t play his offside, so presumably Rutta slides back over. That would mean healthy scratching Connor Murphy, however, so you can see how the coaching staff has a bit of a tricky situation on its hands.
Reassigning Forsling to the AHL is one option given he’s waiver-exempt, but the Blackhawks are trying to develop him into a top-four NHL defenseman right now. It’s understandable that they don’t think he’ll get there if he’s simply eating minutes for the Rockford IceHogs.