The more Vinnie Hinostroza plays, the more it looks like the speedy winger should have been on the Blackhawks’ roster all season.
Hinostroza, who was one of the final roster cuts after training camp, scored a goal and recorded an assist in an impressive 2-1 victory at Nashville on Tuesday to keep the Hawks’ momentum rolling in their first game after the all-star break.
David Kampf scored the Hawks’ other goal and Anton Forsberg made 42 saves as the Hawks (24-19-7) became just the fifth team to win at Nashville in regulation.
“The rest of the season is playoffs,” Hinostroza told NBCSN. “We can’t afford to not play our best every night. So bring our confidence — we know we’re a good team and if we come like we did today, we’re going to do some damage.”
Forsberg, who made 22 saves in the third period, has allowed 2 or fewer goals in five of his last six starts and improved to 5-7-3.
Hinostroza, who scored 6 goals in 49 games last season, began this season in Rockford despite having a strong camp. Instead of moping or bemoaning his plight, the Bartlett native worked hard, impressed coaches and earned a call-up in early December.
He helped open the scoring by poking the puck away from Austin Watson and allowing Kampf to get off a shot that beat Juuse Saros just 3:03 into the game.
Kyle Turris tied it at 1-1 at 2:12 of the second period after a bad misplay by Forsberg behind his net.
Hinostroza restored the Hawks’ lead when he took a drop pass from Schmaltz and ripped a shot that went through Matt Irwin’s legs and past goalie Saros at 14:33 of the second period. Patrick Kane’s willingness to absorb a big hit in the Hawks’ defensive zone was a big reason Schmaltz ended up with the puck in the first place.
“All three guys made a great play,” coach Joel Quenneville told reporters. “Good finish.”
Hinostroza now has 4 goals and 8 assists in his last 14 games.
Early on, the Hawks played a smart, disciplined game in which they held Nashville to 2 shots on goal in the first 14.5 minutes. They also gave the Predators just one power-play opportunity. It came with 8:09 left in the game, and although Nashville had a few looks, they failed to convert.
The Hawks’ three-game road trip continues Thursday in Vancouver and concludes Saturday in Calgary.
“It was a great way to begin this segment of the trip,” Quenneville said. “Tough building and a huge 2 points on the road. It gets us thinking that, ‘Hey, let’s get something going here and build off of it.'”
• Follow John on Twitter @johndietzdh