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Colin Blackwell has career day, leads the charge for underdog Blackhawks

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The Chicago Blackhawks scraped together a lineup on Sunday afternoon with nine players on injured reserve, and they ended a five-game winless skid by defeating the Calgary Flames 4-3 at the United Center.

Go figure, right?

Colin Blackwell led the charge by having a career day with two goals, an assist and nine shot attempts, which led all skaters. It was his second career three-point outing in the NHL.

"It felt good," Blackwell said. "Obviously, they're a pretty veteran team and we had that rough road trip there. Just to get a win, especially on home win, and to sleep in your bed for the first time in a little while, it definitely felt good.

"A lot of guys stepped up today and we had a great team effort. When we do the little things like that and we get good special teams, we come out with a victory."

Blackwell came so close to completing the hat trick but his empty-net attempt went wide.

"I wanted it pretty badly, I’m not going to lie," Blackwell said. "And I feel bad. I left [Philipp Kurashev] out to dry it, I didn’t realize he was right over there to my right."

Blackwell missed nearly 10 months after undergoing sports hernia surgery last March, and there were times where he questioned whether or not he'd ever play again.

Fast forward to Sunday and Blackwell was promoted to the first line because of Chicago's decimated roster and named the No. 1 star of the game. He played like his hair was on fire.

"I've always played like this, but I'm 30 years old and a lot of people haven't really given me the time of day my whole career, so I've always played like that," Blackwell said. "I play with a chip on my shoulder and I recognize that I'm trying to fight for a spot on this team and also trying to make up for some lost time.

"I don't take the game for granted, I never really did, but when you miss a lot of time, you've got a little extra pep in your step. A lot of people don't necessarily think very highly of me, and I keep the receipts and it pisses me off a little bit. I'm always trying to play, it's not always going to be scoring goals, but you can influence the game in many different ways, and I was just trying to do that every time I step on the ice."

Blackwell was moved to first-line wing in large part because of the injuries to Connor Bedard, Nick Foligno and others, but he's also earned the opportunity to be the one to step into that role in the short term while all the injured players work their way back.

Blackwell sure took advantage of it.

"He’s been unbelievable since he’s been back," Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson said. "He was frustrated that it took so long to get back, but he did all the right things to get in shape. I was on the ice one day with the injured guys and he really pushes and he does all the right things in the gym and prepares himself. I’m glad to see him have some success here.

"He finally started to have some a little bit at the end of last year and then he had to shut himself down for surgery. I’m glad it’s picked up where he left off. But it’s all by pure desire by him. He’s a heart-and-soul type of player and sometimes his teammates or the coaching staff have to settle him down a little bit on the bench. He gets revved up. But that’s good. It gets everybody’s spirits up and pushing in the right direction."

Blackwell is a ball of energy on the ice, and it's infectious within the locker room.

"He’s like that off the ice, too," Connor Murphy said. "He’s always got energy and it’s big. You can see that feeds momentum and it feeds a line and when a guy plays with energy and scores, you see the celebrations, you see the passion to want to win the game. It’s contagious to everyone."

Blackwell has repeatedly said he's never taken the game for granted. Maybe there's a little bit of a newfound appreciation for him because of his recovery process, but he's always had that love for the game of hockey and knows what it's like to have the game taken away from him.

Moments like Sunday are ones he'll remember forever.

"When I was watching the games, you watch underneath here," Blackwell said. "I didn't watch too many from up top, to be honest with you. I was doing work in between periods, but obviously that national anthem gets everybody going, it gives you chills, and it's something that only 8,000 people have ever played in this league. So getting that opportunity to be on that perspective of it, or watching it, it's definitely something I don't take for granted."

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