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Blackhawks' Cole Guttman finding his game again and ‘not overthinking things'

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NASHVILLE — Cole Guttman appeared in only 14 games with the Chicago Blackhawks last season, but he performed pretty well during it. And for most of those games, he was dealing with a right shoulder injury that eventually required surgery and shut him down for four months.

Guttman hasn't been the same player yet this season, but he hasn't lost confidence in himself.

"I feel like I’m back for sure," Guttman said. "I feel like I'm just trying to build off of that. It comes down to moving my feet and not overthinking things. I don’t think I ever dropped below that level, it’s just maybe thinking too much."

It was a tough start to the season for Guttman, who was on the Opening Night roster but wasn't getting much playing time. He was eventually demoted to the AHL after the Blackhawks got some healthy bodies back.

"It was my first time experiencing the in and out of the lineup routine," Guttman said. "Just trying to remain confident was the biggest thing for me and just remember what got me here."

After being a healthy scratch vs. Winnipeg on Dec. 27, Guttman turned in one of his best showings of the season on Friday in Dallas after scoring a goal and adding an assist for a multi-point outing. He was promoted to the second line on Sunday and stepped into the bumper role on the top power-play unit for the injured Tyler Johnson, recording an assist on Philipp Kurashev's goal in the third period that was a tic-tac-toe passing play.

The weekend really helped Guttman's confidence.

"It just proves to myself that I can play at that level," he said. "You want to turn the page, you don’t want to think too much about what you did in the past, you want to just keep it going. Just creating the routines for myself to help continue that."

Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson liked Guttman's game in Dallas, especially the first one.

"The second half of that game, that goal gave him a lot of confidence," Richardson said. "Early in the game, just a couple turnovers around the blue lines. We can't have that and that wasn't in his game last year; he was really more aware of that. He's just trying to do a little too much, too early. 

"Just play your game. That doesn't mean play extra safe and throw the puck away, but make the right plays early and quick and you don't need to stickhandle through someone's stick at our blue line."

Oftentimes, it's a challenge for bubble players to play free and loose because one mistake could feel like it's the difference between whether or not you're in the lineup next game. The margin for error feels small.

"For sure, and that’s the overthinking stuff I was talking about," Guttman said. "You don’t want to make a mistake at times and it’s just human nature, I guess, when you’re in and out you don’t want to go out. So you're trying to do everything you can to stay in and when I’m playing my best hockey, I’m not overthinking and thinking about that type of stuff."

Over the last three games, Guttman has three points (one goal, two assists) and is tied with Connor Bedard for the team lead with 10 shots on goal. He's also averaging 15:23 of ice time, which ranks fifth among team forwards.

For context, Guttman had three points (one goal, two assists), 19 shots on goal and averaged 11:21 of ice time in his previous 15 games. He's starting to find his rhythm again, and the Blackhawks have started to lean on him more as the injuries continue to mount.

"Experiencing that for the first time, that was kind of creeping into my mindset a little bit," Guttman said. "One good game doesn’t prove everything, so I don’t want to talk too much about how it’s different now. That was just a step in the right direction."

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