The Blackhawks worked the battle drills on Wednesday, fighting each other for the puck in practice because they’re not fighting opponents enough for it in games.
“Our puck-possession game, we’ve gotten away from it,” Andrew Shaw said. “We’re not winning battles down low, sustaining pucks and keeping plays alive. You always need a guy at the net and it’s something we’ve gotten away from.”
The lack of puck possession is one of the issues the Blackhawks have had as their 5-on-5 scoring has dwindled again. It’s that, it’s the lack of chemistry between lines and lack of a four-line rotation. The Blackhawks thought they were getting somewhere on their Circus Trip. They were starting to get points from those who have struggled in that department most of this season. They were starting to get a little chemistry among the lines — well, other than that second line, of course — and they were getting points. But as the trip wound down the problems started to resurface.
“I think we’ve got to win puck battles,” Marcus Kruger said. “We have to win those battles, come up with loose pucks. That’s how we score goals. That’s how we scored the only goal yesterday (via Patrick Kane), even though it was on the power play.”
So on Wednesday the Blackhawks got to work in getting all those things working again.
“It looked like we had some progress on that trip there where it looked like we were getting a little more consistency. Even if we don’t score, I’d like to see some more offensive zone time and some more puck possession and a little more chemistry among the threesomes,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “But it’s been sporadic right now.”
Expect the lines to be different on Thursday when the Blackhawks face the Ottawa Senators. How the lines stack up, however, is unknown right now; the Blackhawks didn’t run line combinations in Wednesday’s practice, focusing on those battle and puck-possession drills. If jersey colors meant anything on Wednesday, it looks like Marian Hossa could return to the top line while Andrew Shaw and Ryan Garbutt return to the third or fourth line.
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The Blackhawks have had to juggle lines more in this early season than they’ve had to do in quite some time. Even if one line’s been going well in the past, it usually didn’t take long for others to get going after that. The long-term solutions and line combinations have been hard to find. The Blackhawks will keep looking for them while they also try winning those puck battles against the opposition, so they don’t have to keep battling each other.
“It looked like we were trending that way and now it looks like we’re off track again,” Quenneville said. “ So let’s try to recapture that consistency in our rotations and be more of a four-line team. That really is what we’re all about.”
— Niklas Hjalmarsson did not practice on Wednesday but Quenneville said the defenseman is fine. Expect Hjalmarsson to play on Thursday.
— Corey Crawford will start vs. the Senators.