Blackhawks

Blackhawks juggle lines to find consistency, production

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Blackhawks juggle lines to find consistency, production

The changes were evident on Tuesday morning, the product of lines that have gone quiet once again. Even the second line was no longer intact.

And while it’ll take until Wednesday morning to see how many changes are truly implemented, there’s no doubt the Blackhawks need to do something to spark production and more of a four-line rotation.

Tomas Fleischmann and Patrick Kane joined Jonathan Toews on the top line while Marian Hossa skated with Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov during Tuesday’s practice. Andrew Ladd was on the third line with Dennis Rasmussen and Andrew Shaw (Shaw was at right wing) and Brandon Mashinter, Andrew Desjardins and Dale Weise made up the fourth line.

Teuvo Teravainen missed Tuesday’s practice due to illness but coach Joel Quenneville said the center could play on Wednesday against the Philadelphia Flyers. So keep that in mind with those lines. Still, for a team that’s struggled to find consistent contributions from lines outside of the second one, it was a different look.

[MORE HAWKS: Can Blackhawks rise above line inconsistency?]

“Well, we’re looking for balance right now. We’re looking for defensive responsibility and we’re looking for consistency in the four-line rotation. We haven’t been very good in that area the last few games and playing major-league catch-up is not productive hockey,” Quenneville said. “We’ve got to find a way what got us into those areas or ways and we tried balancing it out with the lines here and changing it up on a couple of guys. The one line’s been together all year and there was probably never a need to change it. But I feel right now that a different look can help everyone and give us more balance throughout the lineup."

There have been times here or there this season when other lines have been productive, but it hasn’t been nearly as long as the second line. The Blackhawks’ 5-on-5 scoring overall is down this season. They have 109 5-on-5 goals through 70 games; they had 150 5-on-5 goals through 82 games last season.

“You definitely want to be more consistent with that. But also, sometimes it’s the way it works,” Desjardins said. “Hockey’s one of those things where you get hot, then those points go away and then you get hot again. Sometimes it’s the way it goes. It’s a little bit of a roller coaster.”

The Blackhawks’ roller coaster has been in the dip portion lately. They’re 1-3-1 in their last five games; despite a great start in the opening minutes against Los Angeles on Monday, they were staring up at a 2-0 deficit less than a minute after their first power play ended.

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There are 12 games remaining in the regular season. The Blackhawks have gone through late-season lulls before and have usually righted the ship come playoff time. But they know they can’t wait too long before getting things together. Changes were made on Tuesday that could likely be implemented on Wednesday. The Blackhawks want to see that chemistry and increased production now.

“You need that secondary scoring. It’s what makes the team successful and allows teams to go far in the playoffs. Juggling the lines here, hopefully we can find some chemistry and get that going,” said Shaw. “I mean, you have your ups and downs every season. It’s a lot of games; 82 games can wear on you mentally and physically. We just have to get out of this little slump we’re in and push forward.”

BRIEFLY

- Duncan Keith did not practice on Tuesday. Asked if Keith was 100 percent, Quenneville said the defenseman was “fine.”

- Scott Darling will start vs. the Flyers. Quenneville said he wanted to give Darling a home start, and he had anticipated Darling starting this game.

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Corey Crawford’s season debut after missing nearly 10 months with a concussion.

Mayers talks about the Kitty system that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Vinnie Hinostroza probably dealt with in their returns to Chicago.

The guys also discuss what’s next for Crawford, the upcoming matchup against Artemi Panarin and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Blackhawks’ biggest areas for improvement.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center on Thursday:

1. Return of the Crow

The Blackhawks got their man back between the pipes after a 10-month layoff due to a concussion. And he looked like same old "Crow."

Crawford stopped 27 of 30 shots for a save percentage of .900. He faced 12 shots and eight scoring chances in the first period, but nothing too out of the ordinary. The biggest save he made was on a Michael Grabner breakaway in the third period, bailing out a turnover in the neutral zone.

"I think I felt better in the second and third," Crawford said. "But they really didn’t get that many opportunities early. It was nice. I think they flipped one in for the first one, so that was kind of good just to get in it and feel one early. We were close in that one all game and we created a lot. I thought [Antti] Raanta played really well.

"It was a tough, tough break at the end. Still felt I should have stopped that one. We were right there, we were creating a lot and gotta try to come up with that one. Just gotta forget about it and worry about the next game."

2. Alex DeBrincat, Jonathan Toews extend point streaks

The hot start continues for the Blackhawks' two leading scorers, both of whom assisted on Erik Gustafsson's goal in the second period to stretch their point streaks to six games. DeBrincat and Toews each have 10 points this season.

3. Overtime streak ends

The Blackhawks made history by forcing five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team has ever done in the four major sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB). But they didn't have the comeback magic in them this time.

Entering Thursday, the Blackhawks were 1-0-1 when trailing after two periods. They were 5-28-2 last season for a win percentage of .143.

4. Familiar faces, new places

Five former Blackhawks took the ice for the Coyotes: Vinnie Hinostroza, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jordan Oesterle, Richard Panik and Antti Raanta.

It was Hjalmarsson's first trip back to Chicago since being traded in the 2017 offseason. He received a nice video tribute during the second TV timeout of the first period, which made him very emotional.

"I almost got emotional too seeing his reaction," Toews said. "He's one of those guys you'll never forget what he meant to this locker room. He was a quiet guy in the room but we all know how he played and put everyone else before himself. Pretty cool reaction from the fans too. I think we were all sad to see him leave this locker room, he did a lot of special things and was a massive part of our championship wins. Happy for him to get that reception. It's well-deserved and obviously we miss having him around."

As far as the game, Hjalmarsson logged a team-high 22:18 of ice time and blocked three shots. Oesterle registered a secondary assist on Arizona's first goal, which was its first 5-on-5 of the season.

Hinostroza, who was also part of the Marian Hossa trade over the summer, scored twice in his return to his hometown, beating Crawford with a wrist shot to make it 2-1 in the second period and an empty-netter in the third; his second goal turned out to be the game winner, the fourth of his career and first as a member of the Coyotes.

Panik recorded four shot attempts (three on goal). And Raanta improved to 16-0-3 in his career at the United Center, a remarkable record for any goaltender in any situation.