Blackhawks

What to make of revamped Blackhawks lines

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AP

What to make of revamped Blackhawks lines

Joel Quenneville didn't have to use his line blender in November after the Blackhawks finished the month with a 7-4-2 record, but he's been forced to revamp his four-line rotation after his team has lost a season-long four straight games and hasn't gotten timely scoring as of late.

Here's what the line rushes looked like during Tuesday's practice:

There's a lot to unpack here, so let's give it a go.

First and foremost, the top line has completely been dismantled, with Brandon Saad moving away from Jonathan Toews and onto the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane, and Richard Panik swapping spots with John Hayden on the fourth line.

When Saad and Toews are on the ice together, they're controlling 55.9 percent of the even-strength shot attempts, which is above the team's overall average of 51.4, according to naturalstattrick.com. When they're apart, that number drops to 49.7 for Toews and 53.7 for Saad.

Clearly, The Captain is better with Saad on his wing, but they've combined for only five 5-on-5 goals over their last 24 games, so a change was needed. And it may not be a bad thing for the Blackhawks looking for an offensive spark. 

In the 58:58 of even-strength ice time Kane and Saad have spent together this season, they're controlling 59.9 percent of the shot attempts. Add a player like Anisimov, who leads the team with 12 goals and can provide net-front presence, into the mix and that trio has the potential to present major problems for opponents.

But does it take away from the depth scoring elsewhere?

This is likely why Nick Schmaltz was moved to the third line, where he will play center in between Lance Bouma and Alex DeBrincat, while Patrick Sharp, Tommy Wingels and Panik round out the rotation.

Rather than loading up the top six with offensive firepower, Quenneville has dispersed his playmakers among the top nine for matchup/balancing purposes and in an effort to search for more consistency across the board.

The Blackhawks are running out of options and combinations, but we haven't seen a shake-up on all four lines like this one yet, so it'll be interesting to see how it all blends together and what the team's response will be.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: