A lot has changed for the Blackhawks in a short amount of time. They went from sitting in a playoff spot to being closer to the basement of the Western Conference in a matter of a week and a half.
But they're not waving the white flag just yet. The Blackhawks returned to practice on Wednesday and are exploring the idea of separating Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews for balance purposes, a duo they've heavily relied on over the last couple months.
"It was kind of a test run to see how they looked," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "It's an option to spread it out again. We haven't exactly been perfect lately, so it's an option."
The test run featured Kane on the third line with Artem Anisimov and Dominik Kahun while the first line featured Toews with John Hayden and Brandon Saad. Alex DeBrincat, Brendan Perlini and Dylan Strome made up the second line.
Ever since Drake Caggiula went down with a concussion, the Blackhawks haven't quite felt comfortable with their four-line rotation. The good news is, David Kampf returned to practice after being sidelined since Feb. 5 because of a right foot injury. He centered the fourth line in between Marcus Kruger and Chris Kunitz, and could return on Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres.
Perhaps the more important reasoning for the shake-up in lines is to even out the minutes considering Kane and Toews have been horses for a while now. Fatigue isn't necessarily catching up to them, but the Blackhawks want to make sure they're staying fresh down the stretch.
"Yeah, because we need them to produce," Colliton said on the importance of scaling back the hard minutes. "When they don't it's hard for us to win. Again, we would welcome secondary scoring and positive shifts and play in the offensive zone from the other lines. Even if they just do that, that's going to help the whole team. We can control the momentum and the tempo of the game better than we have."
Kane denied the idea that fatigue is catching up to him. He wants to be out there, and feels like he had a bunch of chances on the West Coast trip but sometimes the chips don't fall your way. Same with Toews, who knows the Blackhawks are fighting for their playoff lives.
"I think we all realize these are our playoffs right now," Toews said. "We have some guys in this room aside from myself that are getting a lot of ice time and a lot of pressure and have seen some tough, heavy games and never really make excuses. I don’t think fatigue should be an excuse.”
Said Kane: "We got 16 games left. We know what's at stake. Not that we didn't before, but we know that pretty much every game is a must win from here on out."Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.