The Blackhawks returned to practice in Chicago on Thanksgiving Thursday and shuffled up their lines ahead of Friday's afternoon matchup against the St. Louis Blues.
The top-six has a completely different feel to it:
- Line 1: Brandon Hagel - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
- Line 2: Alex DeBrincat - Kirby Dach - Dominik Kubalik
- Line 3: Philipp Kurashev - Henrik Borgstrom - Ryan Carpenter
- Line 4: Reese Johnson - Dylan Strome - Jujhar Khaira *Adam Gaudette and Mike Hardman rotated in and out of the bottom six, but both of them appear to be on the outside looking in as it stands.
The most notable difference: DeBrincat and Kane have been separated, and the reason behind it is to help spread out the scoring. The Blackhawks have only 24 goals at 5-on-5 through 19 games and it really dried up over the final three games of the road trip.
"We’re just kind of a little stale right now," interim head coach Derek King said. "We’ve got guys who can score goals but we’re just not scoring them. I was talking to some people and just if it ends, that first line goes out and they don’t get anything, our second and third line, they’ve been struggling a little bit, certain guys.
"So I thought we’d get three guys on different lines and maybe mix them a little bit and give it a try. I’ll be honest with you, I’m not afraid to mix lines up, whether it’s during the game or that next day. I’d like to be able to stay with lines but I think we just need a little change and we’ll see how it goes."
The two players who have seemingly been snake-bitten this season are Toews and Kubalik. Chicago's captain has zero goals this season and Kubalik has three, but none of them have come at even strength. You could probably throw Dach into that mix as well, with three goals on the season and 12 straight without one.
If nothing else, the Blackhawks need to get those three guys going, even if it means splitting up DeBrincat and Kane.
"There’s plenty of scoring in this group," King said. "It’s just getting the right line combinations and spreading the wealth. You have three really good hockey players on one line and if they get shut down, then where else are you getting your scoring from? Especially the other guys are just struggling right now.
"Maybe if you put Kaner with Toews, maybe that gets Toews a goal and gets everybody happy on that line. Then Hags will hunt down pucks. That other line, Dach, DeBrincat, Kuby, that’s a pretty solid line there, too. Now you have two solid lines. They have to go out and work, but I like our lineup based on looking at it on the wall."