The Blackhawks started training camp thinking Marko Dano, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa could be their top line entering the season.
It wasn’t. But after several weeks of trying pretty much everybody at that left-wing spot, the Blackhawks will take another shot with what looked promising in mid-September.
Dano practiced with Toews and Hossa on Friday, and it looks like he’ll get his first regular-season shot at helping the Blackhawks find their first-line answer. For Dano, who was recalled on Nov. 2 after starting the regular season with the Rockford IceHogs, it’s a second opportunity.
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“It’s good to be back with them on the same line and yeah, they’re trying to find someone to play on the first line and now I’m getting a chance,” he said. “It’s a big opportunity for me and we played well in training camp at Notre Dame and now hopefully it’s going to work again. I’ll just go there, have fun with them and hopefully it’s going to work.”
The 20-year-old forward was there in September, back when coach Joel Quenneville said, “that’s the lottery spot when you get to play on that line.” Apparently it should have been called the “lottery” spot for a different reason: the Blackhawks have constantly been pulling a new number out of the bag in the hopes of finding a winner.
Nothing has stuck. Teuvo Teravainen, Ryan Garbutt, Andrew Shaw, Viktor Tikhonov and Bryan Bickell have all taken top-line whirls as the Blackhawks look find something, anything similar to what second liners Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane have done.
So now it’s Dano’s turn.
“We’ve tried everybody so far – not everybody but just about. So he gets an opportunity,” Quenneville said. “Whether it’s the line as a group, no matter what part, we’re looking to find some predictability, stability, consistent scoring. That’s the one line that’s traditionally been effective and you can count on for some production. Hopefully we can get something besides Arty’s line going.”
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It doesn’t sound like the most overwhelming endorsement but, hey, why not? Dano was noticeable against New Jersey on Thursday night, more aggressive than he’s been in previous games. He’s not out there for the physical game but he had four hits anyway against the Devils.
“I was trying to bring more energy on the ice and just play better than the games before. I think that’s the key to throw the body out there, play faster and do the simple plays,” Dano said. “I tried to do it last night and I’m going to keep working hard and do it the next game too.”
The Blackhawks have several issues they’re trying to work out. One is finding a top-line combination that works for more than a game. Dano was the guy the Blackhawks envisioned as part of that line in September. Now they’ll give it another look in the hopes it sticks.
“He has some nice hands, he has some finish to his game. Still think his overall game – we've got to continue to work on that area. But he made some nice plays last night; almost scored a goal as well,” Quenneville said. “But playing with those guys, hopefully there's some production.”