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 go for third straight win vs. Panthers

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks go for third straight win vs. Panthers

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Florida Panthers 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. Can Patrick Kane build off two-point performance?

For the first time since 2009, Kane had gone four straight games without a point and it was almost five but he recorded two assists in the third period of Sunday's 3-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

It was important for his line overall to get going again, and they did just that Sunday when Artem Anisimov scored the go-ahead goal and Nick Schmaltz added some insurance, with Kane assisting on both of those goals.

The Panthers rank dead last in goals against, so there's an opportunity for Kane and Co. to build some momentum on offense.

2. Power play breakout?

Alright, here's your chance. The Blackhawks have scored only one power-play goal in their last 17 tries, and have slipped to 29th overall in that area but are welcoming a Panthers team that ranks among the bottom 5 in penalty kill percentage.

The Blackhawks just haven't been able to get anything going with the man advantage, whether it's net front presence, quality shots or failed entries. Not scoring isn't necessarily a bad thing, but when it's two minutes of nothing, it can be a momentum killer. Fixing that is Step 1.

3. Another big night vs. Florida for top line?

The last time the Blackhawks played the Panthers, the first line of Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad and Richard Panik absolutely dominated in a 4-1 win on Nov. 25. Toews and Saad each scored a goal and had multi-point efforts, which at the time were breakouts for a couple of struggling players.

Alex DeBrincat has joined those two on the first line, and that trio has been solid early on. The chemistry has been noticeable, and it should only get stronger the more they play together and figure out each other's tendencies.

Patrick Kane now has the fifth-most points in Blackhawks history

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USA TODAY

Patrick Kane now has the fifth-most points in Blackhawks history

Patrick Kane made Blackhawks history on Sunday night.

With two assists against the Arizona Coyotes, the 29-year-old forward now has the fifth-most points in franchise history with 781, passing Doug Wilson who had 779.

Here's the new Top 5:

1. Stan Mikita — 1,467

2. Bobby Hull — 1,153

3. Denis Savard — 1,096

4. Steve Larmer — 923

5. Patrick Kane — 781

Not bad company, huh?

Kane's two-point game came at a pretty good time. Entering Sunday, he was held off the scoresheet for four straight games, the longest streak of such since the 2009-10 season.

Kane snapped his slump with two points in a minute and 45 seconds.

"He's fun to watch," said Tommy Wingels of Kane. "People in here, people in this city are very, very fortunate to have a world-class player like that in their city."