LOS ANGELES — Arvid Soderblom is a naturally quiet and serious guy. Aside from the fact that English isn’t the 23-year-old Swedish goaltender’s first language, he tends to focus more on improving his play than chatting it up in the locker room after practices and morning skates.
“I’m probably not the guy that speaks the most in the locker room, but I’m feeling confident,” he said Thursday. “When you’re here for a longer time, you start to get to know all the teammates. It’s been all good so far for me. It’s getting easier every day, too. When you know all the guys, it makes it easier on the ice.”
His ahead-of-schedule (albeit temporary) NHL promotion has brought with it some surprises and lessons to learn. The sheer talent level of NHL competition across the board is startling, for one thing.
“Everybody in this league is so good: everybody can shoot the puck, everybody can make moves,” he said. “It means you have to be on your toes and be sharp, so it has been good for my development.”
And NHL arenas packed with tens of thousands of fans are often warmer than rinks in the AHL or in Sweden, which causes him to sweat more.
That turned into an issue Saturday in Winnipeg, when Soderblom was pulled at the second intermission — forcing the Hawks to turn to just-signed Dylan Wells — due to a hydration issue that had him feeling ill. The Hawks’ trainers and nutritionists are now working with him to figure out how to keep him fully hydrated during future games.
That next game will likely come soon. Soderblom is expected to start Saturday against the Ducks, putting his stellar .924 save percentage and plus-1.9 goals-saved-above-average metric to the test again, since Petr Mrazek returned from his groin injury to start Thursday against the Kings.
Coach Luke Richardson said it’s possible that plan could change, but for the sake of Soderblom’s dad Martin — who flew over from Sweden to join the Hawks’ “Dads Trip” this week in California — one would hope it doesn’t.
“[This has] been a great boost for my confidence,” he said. “I have been doing a great job so far, so that makes you even more motivated to…get better. When you realize you can do a good job at this level, it makes you feel good.”
The Hawks’ Thursday visit to the Kings marked their 13th game of the season. In all 13, they’ve dressed 12 forwards and six defensemen.
That’s not surprising at first glance, considering 12-and-six is the typical lineup construction most teams deploy on any given night. But under ex-coach Jeremy Colliton, the Hawks dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen relatively frequently — certainly not the majority of games, but seemingly in at least one out of every 13 games.
Richardson, however, said back in training camp that 11-and-seven lineups don’t tempt him the way they did Colliton. And he has backed up those words.
“That’s very difficult for a defense coach to keep everybody going,” he explained back on Oct. 6. “It’s easier with the proper four lines up front to keep everybody involved in the game. Especially nowadays, there’s usually lots of penalties, especially early in the season, so you find a role for everybody and make sure they’re involved in the game. When you have seven ‘D,’ it’s really hard to [do that].”