Coach Joel Quenneville said late last week that it wasn’t wise to read too much into the Blackhawks’ lines at the time.
On Monday you could read more into those lines, and the top two looked pretty familiar.
Marian Hossa was back with Jonathan Toews, with Richard Panik on the left wing, and the second line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane was together again as the Blackhawks prepped for Wednesday’s regular-season opener against the St. Louis Blues.
With Andrew Desjardins out 4-6 weeks with a lower-body injury, their bottom two lines are youth heavy. Tyler Motte, who wowed in training camp, is on the third line with Marcus Kruger and Ryan Hartman. Vinnie Hinostroza, Nick Schmaltz and Jordin Tootoo comprise the fourth line.
|Left wing||Center||Right wing|
|First line||Richard Panik||Jonathan Toews||Marian Hossa|
|Second line||Artemi Panarin||Artem Anisimov||Patrick Kane|
|Third line||Tyler Motte||Marcus Kruger||Ryan Hartman|
|Fourth line||Vincent Hinostroza||Nick Schmaltz||Jordin Tootoo|
So the Blackhawks will start with top-six players who know each other very well.
“Right now we talk about balance, and we feel that balance and predictability is having four lines where we have familiarity,” Quenneville said. “That’s probably the most important reason why we’re looking to start with a couple of established lines up front and work our way.”
Quenneville had talked of making changes to get more balance in the Blackhawks’ lineup. When Hossa returned to practice last Friday he was part of a third line with Marcus Kruger, Panarin was on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Motte was with Anisimov and Kane. Hossa and Kane both said they would do whatever was in the team’s best interest but in terms of Panarin and Kane, specifically, there’s no doubt the two had tremendous chemistry that was tough to beat and even tougher to split up. When the two were together following a penalty kill in last week’s victory against Detroit, Kane had the primary assist on a Panarin goal.
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Talking after that game, Kane commented on the possibility of he and Panarin being split.
"Yeah, I mean, you know, last year I think is probably the one year that I really only played with a couple players, so I'm used to playing all over the place, playing with different guys,” he said. “We'll see what happens. I know they wanted to try something different for the game tonight and maybe throughout preseason, so I'll just play where they tell me to play, I guess."
As of now, Kane and Panarin are together again. Same with Toews and Hossa. How long things last remains to be seen but a few players who have had great success together will see if they can build on that on opening night.