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.
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.”
- 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.