Buffalo Sabres

The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line


The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line

Jonathan Toews' offense usually comes in spurts. We're seeing it again right now.

But it's no coincidence his numbers have spiked since Patrick Kane joined him on the top line.

After recording another two points in Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Blackhawks captain has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his past eight games; he had 11 points in his previous 23 games total.

Toews also reached the 20-goal mark for the 11th straight season, joining Kane and Alex Ovechkin as the only three active players to accomplish that feat to open their NHL careers.

Kane has seen his offensive production pick up, too. He has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in his past 13 games after going five straight without one, which was his longest point drought of the season.

When the two of them are on the ice together at even strength, they control 57.9 percent of the shot attempts. It hasn't quite translated on the scoresheet (14 goals for and 17 goals against) maybe the way it should, but they are certainly spending far more time in the offensive zone than the defensive end and are generating a high volume of shots.

So yes, reuniting the dynamic duo has worked stats-wise.

But it comes at a cost:

— Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz haven't scored in six straight contests.

— Alex DeBrincat's season-long goal drought is up to 13 games.

— Artem Anisimov's last even-strength goal came nine games ago.

When you put Kane and Toews together, you risk losing some balance across the lineup and that's why Joel Quenneville has always been reluctant to go to that nuclear option. He prefers when opposing teams are forced to play 'Pick Your Poison.'

Ideally, you'd like to spread out the scoring, but one thing is for certain: The Blackhawks are better when Kane and Toews are each producing offensively, whether they're apart or together. 

When the wins start to dry up though — and they have — that's normally when it's time to try something different.

Perhaps more importantly, the last thing you want are those scoring droughts mentioned above to stretch even further and get inside the younger skaters' heads, then carrying it with them into the offseason.

Gustav Forsling has big night in a game Blackhawks 'had to win'

Gustav Forsling has big night in a game Blackhawks 'had to win'

Gustav Forsling couldn't have picked a better night to record three points, including the game-winning goal.

Forsling helped the Blackhawks snap their five-game losing streak with a big, comeback win in overtime against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night at the United Center.

Already with a helper on Alex DeBrincat's goal in the second period, Forsling made his presence known in the third period and overtime.

With the Blackhawks on the penalty kill and trailing 2-1, Tommy Wingels redirected Forsling's shot from the point with 3:22 left in the third. Tie game.

Then in overtime, with 4.9 seconds left, Forsling sealed it when another shot from the point went under the pads of Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner. Ballgame. Blackhawks win 3-2.

Entering Friday, the Blackhawks were 0-3-2 in their last five games. It was their worst losing streak since 2011-12, when they lost nine games in a row.

Could the Blackhawks — who are now 13-11-5 and fifth in the Central Division — have used a bigger win than that?

"We had to win," coach Joel Quenneville said after the game.

Was this game the Blackhawks needed to turn things around?

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to end skid vs. Sabres


Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to end skid vs. Sabres

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Buffalo Sabres tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Reinforcements coming?

After losing their fifth straight game, the Blackhawks recognized that changes needed to be made. So on Thursday, they placed Tanner Kero on waivers and all indications point to Vinnie Hinostroza getting recalled if/when Kero clears.

Hinostroza leads the Rockford IceHogs with 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in 23 games, and has proven he belongs on the big league roster. It'll be interesting to see where he plays, if he's in fact the player coming up. His speed can certainly help provide an offensive spark, and might be better suited to play a top six role off the get go.

2. Anton Forbserg or Jean-Francois Berube?

Forsberg was really good in his first two starts after Corey Crawford went down with a lower-body injury, but he struggled in his third one Wednesday in Washington, allowing three goals in a span of 3:28 and was pulled before the first period ended.

Berube wasn't too bad in relief. He stopped 12 of 14 shots, and didn't look out of place. There's a chance Crawford returns Sunday vs. Arizona, so this could be the only chance Berube gets at starting before then.

3. American boys.

It's unfortunate we won't get to see the possibility of Patrick Kane and Jack Eichel playing on a line together for Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics. It could have been special to watch as two of the faces of the country.

But they will share the same sheet of ice tonight, and each of them tend to take their game to a higher level when they square off.

Eichel has recorded at least a point in three of four career games against Chicago while Kane has 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in 13 games against his hometown Sabres. Kane had two goals and three assists against them last year, including an overtime winner on Jan. 5 at home.