Where Blackhawks' Vinnie Hinostroza may fit into lineup

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Charlie Roumeliotis
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Where will Hinostroza fit into Blackhawks' lineup? originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Vinnie Hinostroza knew there was a possibility he could be moved before the April 12 NHL trade deadline. He wasn't getting much playing time in Florida and that probably wasn't going to change down the stretch and into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But returning to the Blackhawks, his hometown team, of all places? That's not something he remotely had on his radar. 

"When I heard it was Chicago it was kind of a shocker," said Hinostroza, who was acquired on Friday in exchange for Brad Morrison. "I was here before and there's 30-something other teams; how do I end up going home again? My mom and fiancée’s mom were probably the happiest people in the world now that they'll be able to see the baby whenever they want. It’s a great fit, but the part I’m most happy about is obviously the hockey. I’m just excited to wear this logo again."

After driving 19 hours from Fort Lauderdale to Chicago over the weekend, Hinostroza joined the team for practice on Monday at Fifth Third Arena. He's sporting No. 28 because his original No. 48 is now being worn by rookie defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk and the No. 29 he requested (in honor of his son being born on Feb. 9) is taken by Madison Bowey.

Aside from a new number, Monday felt like home again for Hinostroza ... literally.

"It's obviously great to be back," he said. "It's nice when you can just drive to the rink and you know where you’re going, walk in and see familiar faces. I'm just super excited to be here, super excited they're giving me this opportunity. Things didn’t go how I wanted in Florida, but I know I have a lot of game left in me. I’m excited to be here, play my game and do whatever I can for this team."

So, where might he fit into the lineup? Hinostroza skated on a line with Dominik Kubalik and Philipp Kurashev at practice, which indicates he could have a top-nine role to start.

Head coach Jeremy Colliton hasn't made any declarations, but he likes the versatility Hinostroza brings, whether it's being able to play any of the three forward positions or any of the four lines.

"Overall, just his skating and pace, I think that’s something that when we’re good, that’s a big part of our game," Colliton said. "We need to get back to that. I think he can help us there. He does have some skill and scored in the league before. He can help on any line, whether it’s down the lineup or up the lineup, we've got to get him up to speed."

Hinostroza said he had a phone conversation with Colliton during his 19-hour drive to Chicago. The two of them overlapped for one year in Rockford, where Hinostroza recorded 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in 29 games during the 2017-18 season, which was Colliton's first season as the IceHogs head coach.

Despite the familiarity, Hinostroza knows he's going to have to earn his spot in the Blackhawks' lineup and that nothing will be handed to him. And that's the way he wants it.

"He just told me he liked me a lot when he had me in Rockford," Hinostroza said. "He wouldn’t have brought me here if he didn’t think I could help the team, but also he's not promising anything. I've never wanted a handout and that’s not something I’m looking for. I just want a good opportunity, a fair chance.

"With my hard work and the way I play, I think I'll be able to earn some time. Whatever I can do to help this team win. There's about a month left in the season. A lot of guys have been here all year, so just whatever I can do to help out. Hopefully get more opportunities as we go along."

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