Blackhawks juggle lines to find consistency, production


Blackhawks juggle lines to find consistency, production

The changes were evident on Tuesday morning, the product of lines that have gone quiet once again. Even the second line was no longer intact.

And while it’ll take until Wednesday morning to see how many changes are truly implemented, there’s no doubt the Blackhawks need to do something to spark production and more of a four-line rotation.

Tomas Fleischmann and Patrick Kane joined Jonathan Toews on the top line while Marian Hossa skated with Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov during Tuesday’s practice. Andrew Ladd was on the third line with Dennis Rasmussen and Andrew Shaw (Shaw was at right wing) and Brandon Mashinter, Andrew Desjardins and Dale Weise made up the fourth line.

Teuvo Teravainen missed Tuesday’s practice due to illness but coach Joel Quenneville said the center could play on Wednesday against the Philadelphia Flyers. So keep that in mind with those lines. Still, for a team that’s struggled to find consistent contributions from lines outside of the second one, it was a different look.

[MORE HAWKS: Can Blackhawks rise above line inconsistency?]

“Well, we’re looking for balance right now. We’re looking for defensive responsibility and we’re looking for consistency in the four-line rotation. We haven’t been very good in that area the last few games and playing major-league catch-up is not productive hockey,” Quenneville said. “We’ve got to find a way what got us into those areas or ways and we tried balancing it out with the lines here and changing it up on a couple of guys. The one line’s been together all year and there was probably never a need to change it. But I feel right now that a different look can help everyone and give us more balance throughout the lineup."

There have been times here or there this season when other lines have been productive, but it hasn’t been nearly as long as the second line. The Blackhawks’ 5-on-5 scoring overall is down this season. They have 109 5-on-5 goals through 70 games; they had 150 5-on-5 goals through 82 games last season.

“You definitely want to be more consistent with that. But also, sometimes it’s the way it works,” Desjardins said. “Hockey’s one of those things where you get hot, then those points go away and then you get hot again. Sometimes it’s the way it goes. It’s a little bit of a roller coaster.”

The Blackhawks’ roller coaster has been in the dip portion lately. They’re 1-3-1 in their last five games; despite a great start in the opening minutes against Los Angeles on Monday, they were staring up at a 2-0 deficit less than a minute after their first power play ended.

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There are 12 games remaining in the regular season. The Blackhawks have gone through late-season lulls before and have usually righted the ship come playoff time. But they know they can’t wait too long before getting things together. Changes were made on Tuesday that could likely be implemented on Wednesday. The Blackhawks want to see that chemistry and increased production now.

“You need that secondary scoring. It’s what makes the team successful and allows teams to go far in the playoffs. Juggling the lines here, hopefully we can find some chemistry and get that going,” said Shaw. “I mean, you have your ups and downs every season. It’s a lot of games; 82 games can wear on you mentally and physically. We just have to get out of this little slump we’re in and push forward.”


- Duncan Keith did not practice on Tuesday. Asked if Keith was 100 percent, Quenneville said the defenseman was “fine.”

- Scott Darling will start vs. the Flyers. Quenneville said he wanted to give Darling a home start, and he had anticipated Darling starting this game.

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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?