The Blackhawks will be without defensemen Jan Rutta and Cody Franson yet again as they host the Wild, reports the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus. Both players participated in an optional practice Sunday morning, but they’ll be in the press box at the United Center in the evening.
Rutta and Franson each suffered minor injuries this month. Rutta got laid out by the Panthers’ Connor Brickley last Tuesday and has since been sidelined by an upper-body injury. Franson has been on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 9 after suffering an upper-body injury the day before against Columbus.
Jan Rutta on the hit that knocked him out: "It was maybe kind of like a 'Welcome to the NHL' hit. It was fast, and it was hard."— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) December 17, 2017
Both players said they’re hoping to return to the lineup for the team’s next game Thursday, but their spots in the lineup may not be waiting for them. The Hawks played extremely well with Michal Kempny and Jordan Oesterle in a 5-1 win over the Jets on Thursday, and Joel Quenneville may have some tough decisions to chew on if the team plays well again versus Minnesota with the same lineup.
Both Rutta and Franson play on the right side, where the team currently has Oesterle, Brent Seabrook, and Connor Murphy installed. Murphy will likely slide back to the left to make room for Rutta, removing Kempny from the lineup, but it’s not clear whether Franson will be handed back his spot given how well Oesterle has played.
All in all, this is a relatively good problem to have, and it shows a benefit of having eight NHL-caliber defensemen on the roster. Even if it’s mid-December and we’re still sorting things out.