CHICAGO – Rather than easing Jeremy Morin into the lineup, the Chicago Blackhawks are putting the talented rookie forward in right away against the Calgary Flames on Sunday night at the United Center.
The 20-year old Morin was called up on Sunday morning from Rockford of the American Hockey League, where he'd played 22 games and scored 5 goals while tallying 10 assists – including one goal and eight helpers in his last nine games.
Morin is also coming off a three-game AHL suspension for an elbowing incident on Dec. 11 against Milwaukee – which is likely the reason he wasn't called up sooner following an upper-body injury to Hawks forward Daniel Carcillo on Wednesday in Minnesota.
"Organizationally, he's a player that we see having a good future with us and it gives him a chance to get back in the lineup," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday afternoon. "He's played well down in the minors this year. He's got some upside offensively. He's got some strength in the puck area, good instincts, good shot and I think defensively he's fine, too. We're looking forward to seeing him play."
Morin made his debut with Chicago last season by playing nine games with the Hawks and scoring two goals while adding one assist. However, Morin sustained a shoulder injury playing for the United States at the 2011 World Junior Championships and he went back to Rockford after helping Team USA win a bronze medal.
Not long after his return, Morin got a concussion on Jan. 15 and missed the rest of the season (41 games) plus sitting out all exhibition games and scrimmages during this year's training camp. The concussion happened after a hard hit caused him to hit his head on the ice. Quenneville said the time spent in the minors this season was necessary for Morin just to get back into the rhythm of a hockey season.
"I think you need time on ice and quality time on ice," Quenneville said. "(The AHL) is a good league and coming off the extended injury there, I think he's earning an opportunity based on how well he's played."
Quenneville wouldn't reveal where in the Hawks lineup Morin will fit in against the Flames, but the most likely spots would be one of the wings on the third line in place of either left wing Bryan Bickell or right wing Michael Frolik.
Morin might also slide into the left wing spot on the fourth line in place of 6-foot-8 defenseman John Scott, who's used on the left wing of that line from time to time. Morin is just excited to get back into an NHL game, regardless of where he's placed.
"You don't know when you're going to get called up, but obviously I'm excited about the opportunity and I'm looking forward to it," said Morin, who was the key return piece in a blockbuster deal with the former Atlanta Thrashers the summer after Chicago won the 2010 Stanley Cup. "I was just excited to kind of be back in the swing of things (in Rockford) and be playing again every night and every weekend, getting back into it. I was most excited about that. I knew I had to prove I could play again before I got the chance (to rejoin the Hawks)."
As for the long period sitting out with the concussion, Morin said it was a tough ordeal and a learning experience.
"I'd never gone through something like that before," he said. "Going through it, you don't really know how much it takes coming back and the timing and everything that it takes. You don't know when it's going to come back. I didn't struggle in the beginning, but it was a little tougher than I thought coming back. I was just excited to finally be back (in Rockford)."
Now the excitement shifts to having another opportunity to show he can play in the NHL.
"Anytime you come up here you just want to play your hardest and prove that you can play at this level," said Morin, who helped the U.S. win the gold medal at the 2010 World Junior Championships. "That's what I'm going to try and do and just play my game. I've definitely been trying to pick up my play in the last couple weeks. I'm moving in the right direction and happy with my game right now."