Coach Joel Quenneville has seen the second line of Alex DeBrincat, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane in a few practices and scrimmages thus far. Now he’ll test them against the opposition.
The trio is expected to be together when the Blackhawks face the Detroit Red Wings tonight at the United Center. Whether this becomes a line in the near future or further down the road (the more likely scenario), it’s a chance to see what the combination of speed and skill can do against another lineup, albeit against a prospect-laden Red Wings roster.
“Yeah, looking forward to seeing that group, Schmaltzy with Kaner is something I want to see as well,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You’re looking for how guys connect as a pair or as line mates. Maybe there’s some chemistry you develop during a game like this.”
Quenneville’s additional look at Schmaltz and Kane is another reminder that the second-line, left-wing spot is the Blackhawks’ new “lottery spot.” DeBrincat is there now and he Schmaltz and Kane are definitely worth a look at this point of the preseason. The plusses are evident: some speed and plenty of skill. The biggest minus would be the lack of size on that line and faceoffs, which are going to be a work in progress for this team overall this season.
Still, the focus right now is what that line could do, be it in the immediate future or later down the road. While Kane is the veteran of the line, he doesn’t foresee having to do a lot of tutelage.
“Sometimes they ask a lot of questions throughout scrimmages and different things,” he said. “Right now you tell them to play their own game. The coaches will take them aside and tell them how to play and as time goes on, when they get more comfortable and even before the season you start talking about things you can work on or things that may be effective throughout the game. But not too much now. I just let them do their own thing.”
DeBrincat said he learned a lot from last year’s training camp that he tried to apply in his final season with the Erie Otters, from improving his overall game to taking better care of himself off the ice. As far as teaming with Kane and Schmaltz, he’ll go with what’s worked for him up to this point.
“Those two guys are very skilled players and for me, I’m just trying to find some open ice and get into open areas to where they can pass to me because both are tremendous passers,” he said. “I just have to find my areas and read off them.”
Thursday’s preseason home opener was about getting good looks, the one Quenneville will take of that whole second line – and of Kane and Schmaltz – and to see if that combination can generate anything off the good looks they’ll get against the Red Wings. For DeBrincat it’s a chance to see what he can do at the next level and whether it earns him something big now or later.
“I just wanted to get my chance and I think they’re giving me as many chances as they can,” DeBrincat said. “Hopefully I can just run away with it and do what I do.”