ANAHEIM, Calif. – Ryan Hartman could see a number of reasons why he and his current linemates were finding the back of the net more lately.
"We've been with each other for a bit, that could be part of it. We're feeling comfortable with each other, finding chemistry. Sometimes it is puck luck, sometimes it may be matchups with certain teams that you pay better against," said Hartman, who will enter the final regular-season game with 19 goals. "It's been a good run. Hopefully we continue that into the playoffs and keep that four-line rotation."
Marian Hossa had the night off on Thursday when the Blackhawks lost to the Anaheim Ducks but he, Hartman and Marcus Kruger have developed some chemistry and points in recent games. Their recent production is helping the Blackhawks keep more of that four-line rotation that worked so well for them back in February, and that they'll need in the playoffs.
"Well with that line, make sure there's contribution offensively but you know you'll get reliability defensively. Krugs has the hot stick right now and has scored some nice goals for us. But the reliability with that line is what you like about it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Predictability is what we count on."
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Kruger and Hossa looked like they were onto something in the Blackhawks' first-round series against the St. Louis Blues last spring. Hossa's rebound 26-goal season, coupled with the top two lines finding success, lets the Blackhawks put Hossa elsewhere to bolster scoring depth. Add Hartman, who's been confident and unafraid to shoot no matter who he's playing with, and it's become a good combination. It just took time for them to feel each other out.
"Something like that, yeah," Hossa said. "There's lots of good potential on that line. Krugsy's steady defensively, can make some plays. Hartsy likes to go hard to the net and create space and also he has a really good shot. If he uses it more often I think it's to his advantage. It's about holding onto the puck a little more in the offensive zone and that way we can create more chances."
When the Blackhawks start the playoffs next week they should have their lineup fairly set. The fourth line is, perhaps, the only area of some question. The Blackhawks have always found success with a four-line roll that gives them the right blend of defense and production. The Hartman-Kruger-Hossa combination has provided the former consistently, the latter recently.
"We're going to need everybody," Kruger said. "We're coming close to playoffs and in the playoffs, it'll be tighter games. You need everyone bringing it because it's going to be tough to score goals."