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updated: 3/10/2018 9:31 AM

Blackhawks Franson, Hayden working to get back to the NHL

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  • Now with the Rockford Icehogs, former Blackhawks defenseman Cody Franson, right, says he's working on his speed and footwork to improve his chances of playing in the NHL again.

    Now with the Rockford Icehogs, former Blackhawks defenseman Cody Franson, right, says he's working on his speed and footwork to improve his chances of playing in the NHL again.
    Associated Press/file

 
 

Dream big. Shoot for the stars. Do whatever it takes. Find a way.

Coaches can hammer home as many cliches as they want to their players, but sometimes a big-old visual aid does the trick a whole lot better.

With that in mind, Rockford coach Jeremy Colliton and members of the Blackhawks front office brought the IceHogs to Chicago on Tuesday to practice at MB Ice Arena.

"Came in to expose guys what it may be like if they can reach the NHL," Colliton said. "It's a pretty special place here. … It's good for them to see what's on the other side."

Of course, a few were on the other side already -- players such as Cody Franson, Lance Bouma and John Hayden. (Gustav Forsling and Tanner Kero missed this practice due to injuries).

Hayden is very much a part of the Hawks' future, but Franson and Bouma will likely try to resurrect their careers with another franchise next season.

Franson, who signed a one-year deal the day before the season began, played 23 games for the Hawks before the team's surprising decision to place him on waivers. When nobody claimed him, a stunned Franson found himself in the AHL.

It took the 30-year-old veteran a while to get over what happened, but he has tried to embrace his role as a mentor to teammates who are about a decade younger.

"Frannie's been great," Colliton said. "How he acts every day, it's a good example for everyone else."

Said Franson: "I've really enjoyed the role I've taken on and tried to make the most of the situation."

At 6-foot-5, 224 pounds, Franson is never going to skate like a young Duncan Keith, but he also realizes he must improve his footwork and quickness to return to the NHL.

"When you go through that process you have an ear to what people are saying and why things are happening the way they are," Franson said. "The big thing that came back at me was that eye test of (needing to) become a more efficient skater.

"I've addressed this with my trainer back home and brought on another trainer that takes a different approach."

Right wing John Hayden, left, celebrates here with Blackhawks teammate Jan Rutta after Hayden scored against against the Vegas Golden Knights last fall. Hayden is now helping the Rockford IceHogs make a push for the playoffs.
Right wing John Hayden, left, celebrates here with Blackhawks teammate Jan Rutta after Hayden scored against against the Vegas Golden Knights last fall. Hayden is now helping the Rockford IceHogs make a push for the playoffs. - Associated Press/file

Hayden appeared in 39 games for the Hawks and had 3 goals with 8 assists. The chemistry he formed with Bouma and Tommy Wingels was noticeable and their line was one of the team's best in the first half of the season.

Hayden, though, came directly from college last season and the Hawks believed he needed seasoning, so they sent him to Rockford on Jan. 8. After scoring 3 goals in his first eight games with the IceHogs, he h has just 2 in the past 14.

"When you're a producer (in college) and then you go the NHL, maybe that's not what you're going to be," Colliton said. "Then you go back to the American League and you think, 'Well, I'm just going to light it up.' That's just not how it works.

"It's difficult to produce offensively. It's a good league. It's important you don't change your game … you've got to continue to play the right way. That's what's going to get you to the NHL."

The Hawks have one nonemergency call-up remaining and it wouldn't be surprising to see them use it on Hayden, who will be a restricted free agent this off-season.

Catch the Hogs:

Rockford, which is in the thick of the playoff race at 29-24-6, is at Milwaukee on Saturday. Blackhawks fans can watch the IceHogs at Allstate Arena twice in the next week when they play the Wolves at 3 p.m. Sunday and on March 17 at 7 p.m.

Slap shots:

The Blackhawks assigned defenseman Carl Dahlstrom to Rockford on Friday. Dahlstrom appeared in 11 games and recorded 3 assists while averaging 17.5 minutes of ice time. … In his past three starts at the United Center, J-F Berube has stopped 112 of 117 shots (.957) and allowed just 5 goals. … Alex DeBrincat does not have a goal in nine straight games -- his longest drought of the season. His 22 goals are tied with Winnipeg's Kyle Connor for third among rookies. Vancouver's Brock Boeser leads with 29, although he will likely miss the rest of the season with a back injury.

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