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3 things we learned at Chicago Blackhawks practice, including the Winter Classic coming to Wrigley Field

It was an uneventful practice at Fifth Third Arena on Tuesday — and for the Chicago Blackhawks, that’s a good thing. A much-needed thing.

Tyler Johnson skated a second straight practice and seems primed to take on a normal workload, and Jason Dickinson practiced after taking a maintenance day.

The injury bug hasn’t been kind to the Hawks this season, but Johnson’s luck in general has been, as he put it, downright “weird.”

Johnson said he hurt his right foot while backchecking on Dec. 31 in Dallas.

“Actually (I) hit a guy and my toe went into the boards and broke a few bones there,” he said. “It’s something that (semi-retired trainer Mike Gapski) even said he hasn’t seen since leather skates.”

Last season, Johnson sprained his left ankle during an awkward collision with Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov on Oct. 25, 2022, and sat on injured reserve until mid-December.

That January, he went back on IR with a left ankle injury, which he later said was “a little different but related” to the earlier injury.

“It’s been kind of a weird couple of years here,” Johnson said. “So I’d like to get a little different luck.”

Here are three things we learned.

1. Wrigley Field would add a different wrinkle.

The Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field will host the 2025 Winter Classic between the Hawks and St. Louis Blues, a source confirmed to the Tribune on Tuesday.

“That’s unbelievable,” Jason Dickinson said.

The last time the Hawks played in a Winter Classic — or any outdoor game — was against the Boston Bruins on Jan. 1, 2019, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind. The Hawks are 0-4 in Winter Classic events, and previously hosted at Wrigley Field on Jan. 1, 2009.

The 2025 game would represent a first for coach Luke Richardson, as a player or coach.

“For myself to be involved in one of those would be really exciting,” he said. “I know the players always love and appreciate that opportunity.”

Dickinson got to experience one, and there’s nothing quite like it.

“You feel like a kid again playing hockey,” he said. “In Dallas, 100,000 people were there, so it’s just a whole different feel.”

Dickinson had an assist during the Stars’ 4-2 comeback win on Jan. 1, 2020, at Cotton Bowl Stadium.

“It will be special,” he said of the Classic reportedly coming to Chicago. “And Wrigley, a very storied stadium, what an incredible place to do it at.”

2. The Hawks need some juice from Johnson.

During Johnson’s stretch on the shelf, the Hawks have gone 3-11-0 and have been outscored 40-17 (not counting a shootout goal in the win over San Jose).

Dickinson said, “He’s another great player that we’ve been missing. He brings offensive upside, he helps the power play, he helps six-on-five. He plays those key moments in the game for us.”

Richardson didn’t seem to have any reservations about throwing Johnson — who had two goals in the first leg of the Dallas trip — in the deep end.

“Unless something changes between now and tomorrow, he’ll go with (MacKenzie) Entwistle and (Lukas) Reichel on the right wing,” Richardson said.

“He’s a versatile guy. He can go in anywhere and if we need to change things up and spark something, he can play a little bit of center.”

The Hawks also plan to use Johnson on the power play.

“Not the biggest guy in the world, but he goes to the hard areas and scores a lot of goals there,” Richardson said.

It’s an underappreciated art, playing down low.

“I think in front of the net, defensively and offensively, it’s about will,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to play there. I don’t think fans realize, I don’t think people realize, that when you’re in front of the net you’re constantly getting cross-checked, your head slashed, abused and that goes both ways.

“So you have to really compete, you have to want to be there, you have to want to try to get into those grimy areas, and when you do that it’s amazing what really happens.”

3. Being “outdoorsy” comes with a caveat.

Richardson said the last time he played hockey outdoors, he was a kid.

“Mine were always on an outdoor rink, and the canal in Ottawa,” he said. “Skated that a few times.

“Last time I did it was very cold. I thought I was doing the smarter thing, going with the wind, until I realized I had to skate seven kilometers back into the wind and it was difficult. It was a reminder to be smart.”

Dickinson, who has played in a Winter Classic, said players have to be mindful of the conditions.

“The day-before practice, the ice was garbage,” he said. “It was horrible. All of us were worried. ‘This is going to be a very simple game. You’ll just chip and chase. You’re not going to be able to make very many plays because the puck is not going to come with you.’

“That next day, the ice was crisp, it was perfect. There was nothing to complain about. So you didn’t have to make adjustments.”

Fortunately, in that instance, play was like any other game.

“The problem is when it gets really sunny and humid, the ice gets sticky and it doesn’t slide the same, so you do have to be a little more cautious at times,” Dickinson said. “But we’ve got some great ice-makers in the league that take great pride in what they do, and they try to give us the best product out there.”