DALLAS – Teuvo Teravainen isn’t used to this.
The Blackhawks forward has played all over the lineup this season, from left wing to right wing, top line to third line. But for several weeks now he’s stayed put, centering the team’s third line.
That stability has been nice.
“Yeah, it makes things a little easier when you know you’re in the same spot every game,” Teravainen said. “You get in the same situations in games over and over, so that makes your game easier.”
Teravainen has looked better and has been a more consistent player since settling into that third-line center role. He scored his 11th goal of the season in the Blackhawks’ 5-2 loss to the Dallas Stars on Friday night and has found chemistry with new linemate Tomas Fleischmann, who also scored against the Stars. It’s a role that fits Teravainen well, and it’s a role it appears he’ll have for some time.
“I think positionally he’s strong, defensively aware, offensively dangerous,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We play him in all situations which is good for us. I think he’s progressing fine.”
Andrew Desjardins, who was Teravainen’s linemate for a few weeks — he was on the fourth line against the Stars — said Teravainen has a strong hockey sense.
“I think he’s a really intelligent player,” Desjardins said. “People don’t realize how good he is defensively. He’s a real intelligent player and I think you need that as a center. He gets down low, makes the right plays and obviously you get him in the offensive zone, he’s creative. He’s done an amazing job moving around like that. He’s adapted well.”
Indeed, Teravainen moved around plenty for most of this season. It showed the Blackhawks trusted him in all situations but the transitions weren’t always easy. As general manager Stan Bowman said around the trade deadline, it was great that Teravainen showed versatility but giving him a more concrete, set assignment was best for him.
Right now, it’s showing. Teravainen remains strong defensively and has added more offensively; he has points in five of his last six games (goal, four assists). Teravainen was overthinking some previous assignments. That’s not the case with this one.
“I feel pretty good. I think I feel pretty natural,” he said. “I don’t think too much so that’s a good thing. I just go out there and play.”
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans]
Teravainen and Fleischmann, acquired from the Montreal Canadiens a few days before the trade deadline, have clicked well. Dale Weise, who the Blackhawks picked up along with Fleischmann, joined those two on the third line in Dallas. Time will tell if those three all work well together but there’s no doubt Teravainen and Fleischmann have already.
“He’s really fast and skilled, and thinks the game right way,” said Teravainen of Fleischmann, who had a goal and an assist against the Stars. “He’s a pretty smart guy, so it’s easy.”
The game overall is coming easier for Teravainen right now. He feels comfortable at center. Sure, there are a few things he needs to work on but for the most part, he may have found the role that suits him best.
“Just little things like face-offs and battles in our own zone. I’ve got to get strong and it takes some time,” Teravainen said. “But overall I think I just try to be in the middle, get open and be myself. I’ll be fine.”