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Isaak Phillips one of several bubble decisions Blackhawks must make after preseason finale


Prospect defenseman Isaak Phillips will find out Sunday or Monday whether he made the Blackhawks’ roster.

The odds might not be in his favor, given that keeping him would entail putting Nikita Zaitsev or Jarred Tinordi on waivers or sending Kevin Korchinski back to the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League. Those options are possible but unlikely.

Still, Phillips can be proud of the NHL readiness he demonstrated throughout training camp, which concluded Saturday with the preseason finale against the Blues. Even if he doesn’t make the initial roster, he’s in line for opportunities this season when guys ahead of him get injured.

‘‘My confidence is high right now,’’ Phillips said recently. ‘‘I think I’m a full-time NHL defenseman. I’ve been ready.’’

The game Saturday functioned as a final audition for all the Hawks’ bubble guys. Connor Bedard, Seth Jones and many other top-end players didn’t play.

Phillips, 22, made 16 NHL appearances last season. But after impressing in his first few games in December, a tough outing Jan. 1 against the Sharks set him back.

‘‘All of a sudden, one play got by him — [he] let it slip by him because he maybe wasn’t concentrating hard enough every shift — and it pulled on his confidence,’’ coach Luke Richardson said. ‘‘Then he kind of had to start over again.’’

Phillips described his performance that night as ‘‘terrible.’’ Assistant coach Kevin Dean, however, immediately went to work on building his morale back up.

‘‘We’ve watched a lot of video,’’ Phillips said. ‘‘Even after we played that game, [the coaches are] not yelling at you, not down on you or anything like that. That’s how you learn, so we broke down the video: ‘Do this, do that.’ They still want me to try to make plays. They don’t want you to become a shell of yourself.’’

This preseason, Phillips has demonstrated his well-roundedness. He’s not as imposing as Alex Vlasic, but he’s still big and physical at 6-3 and 205 pounds. He can’t skate like Korchinski, but he’s still mobile when leading breakouts, especially after focusing on his mobility this summer.

And he has followed Richardson’s instructions to be more assertive and even a little meaner on the ice.

‘‘He’s really trying to implement what he’s learned over the last few years into his game, and he’s showing that,’’ Richardson said. ‘‘Is it enough? We’ll have to see.’’

Forward bubble

While there is obviously some intrigue on defense, too, Richardson said the roster decisions involving the bottom-six forward spots will be even tougher for him to make.

If Philipp Kurashev (wrist injury) isn’t ready for opening night, two or three forwards among the foursome of MacKenzie Entwistle, Boris Katchouk, Reese Johnson and Joey Anderson will make the roster, depending on whether the Hawks keep 13 or 14 forwards.

The order in which they’re listed above probably reflects their likelihoods of making it. The first choice of the fan base is Entwistle, who received 57% of the votes in a Twitter poll Saturday, compared with less than 21% for each of the other three.

This and that

Forward Colin Blackwell, who hasn’t participated in team activities since February because of a sports hernia, skated after practice Saturday for the second consecutive day.

• Former Hawks defenseman Caleb Jones was cut from the Hurricanes’ roster Friday and went unclaimed on waivers. His future is unclear because the Hurricanes don’t have an American Hockey League affiliate this season.



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