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Strome on returning to Chicago: ‘I loved playing here'

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Dylan Strome will make his return to the United Center on Tuesday for the first time since the Blackhawks moved on from him over the summer. He was a pending restricted free agent and was not given a qualifying offer by Chicago, which made him an unrestricted free agent.

Strome played only three and a half seasons with the Blackhawks, but he really endeared himself to the fan base. The feeling was mutual, and it's probably why the team not bringing him back stung a bit.

"It's weird, for sure," Strome said. "Obviously I've got some good friends on the team still and it's going to be different but I'm looking forward to it. It's exciting. I loved playing here, it's a great city. My wife loves it here and my daughter and of course the dogs, so lots of memories here. It's a great place to play."

Strome obviously wasn't the only player the team moved on from. The Blackhawks traded Kirby Dach and Alex DeBrincat, parted ways with Dominik Kubalik and more. It was a change in direction for the franchise.

While a majority of the attention went to the Dach and DeBrincat trades, the Blackhawks' locker room is also feeling the loss of Strome, who had 22 goals and 48 points last season.

"He had a good season last year and he’s one of those guys after Cat and Dacher got traded, we didn’t really talk much about — you guys didn’t talk much about us losing him as a player," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "He's a big part of our offense these last few years and it’s good to see him doing well. But try to keep him off the scoresheet tonight. He’s one of those guys that’ll be looking for a little retribution, for sure."

Strome landed in a great situation with the Washington Capitals, where he signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract. With Nicklas Backstrom out long-term, there was an opportunity for him to play top-six minutes and on the first power-play, and that's exactly where he's played. He's also centering a line with Alex Ovechkin, going from one future Hall of Famer (Patrick Kane) to another.

The fit has been perfect, and Strome is hoping Washington can be a long-term home.

"Obviously, yeah, I think that's the goal," Strome said. "We'll see what happens. The guys here are really nice, they've treated me really well and been playing on the power play and playing some good minutes, and when you're playing with really talented players, it's a lot of fun. They're a great group of guys, very veteran-oriented but just trying to help the best I can and it's been good."

The Capitals, as a team, are starting to get hot and make a playoff push. They've won four in a row, which has to be a nice feeling for Strome, who really hasn't tasted much postseason hockey in his NHL career.

Strome is contributing to the team's overall success, too. He has 22 points (six goals, 16 assists) in 30 games this season and is on pace for 60 points, which would be a new career high. His current personal best is 57 points set during the 2018-19 season.

Extending Washington's winning streak to five games is all that's on his mind as he prepares to face the Blackhawks.

"Being on this side, it's a little different but I'm excited for the game," Strome said. "Whenever you play against an old team, you want to do your best. That's the case for every game. We've been playing well of late, we've won four in a row, so hopefully trying to get two points tonight."

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