Blackhawks

Fourth line providing plenty for Blackhawks

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Fourth line providing plenty for Blackhawks

For most of the regular season, the Blackhawks had a decent fourth-line presence.

The defense was there, as it usually is with a line centered by Marcus Kruger. But the trio wasn’t spending much time in the opponent’s zone or creating many scoring threats.

Three games into the playoffs, however, that’s all changed. Now the fourth line is back to being a line that can play ample minutes, can keep defending well and can add a goal here or there.

Andrew Desjardins, Kruger and Andrew Shaw have made a successful fourth-line combo, one that’s contributed on both sides of the puck. Desjardins scored a goal in his first postseason game with the Blackhawks (Game 3 vs. Nashville). Kruger scored in Game 1 vs. the Minnesota Wild while Shaw has three assists in eight playoff games.

[MORE: Blackhawks need to keep intensity at Xcel Energy Center]

No, they’re not putting up brilliant scoring numbers; they’re not there for that. But any contributions on that side, coupled with the defense on the other, is certainly gravy.

“I think they work well with each other in the puck area,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “They’re relentlessly pursuing pucks and they rotate well off one another. Defensively, there’s awareness. Offensively, all three can make in-tight plays. We usually use them in a defensive role but when they can get that offensive-zone time that’s a bonus.”

Sometimes the trade-deadline move that gets the least fanfare can make you a four-line team again. When the Blackhawks acquired Desjardins from San Jose on March 2, it was met with little fanfare. Most of the attention was on Kimmo Timonen and Antoine Vermette, who the Blackhawks had traded for the previous weekend. When Quenneville altered the lineup entering Game 3 vs. Nashville — Vermette went to the third line and Desjardins joined Kruger and Shaw on the fourth — everything clicked. Once again the fourth line was bringing balance and taking some of the pressure off the top three lines.

“You have to spread the workload,” Desjardins said. “It seems like that’s the case. It’s great to have that feeling, to feel like you’re trusted and be in situations. Again, you can’t take it for granted. You have to do the job out there.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the playoff run, Blackhawks fans!]

The Blackhawks’ fourth line rarely changed through the first half of last season. At the time, Kruger, Ben Smith — who went to San Jose in the Desjardins trade — and current Flames forward Brandon Bollig brought stability to that fourth line. Shaw, who is back at the wing on this line, said the current trio is working just as well.

“I just think we have the chemistry,” Shaw said. “We all have the same mindset: get pucks deep, make their D turn and cycle the puck. [Kruger and Desjardins] both have good skill, too. They make plays and support you as well.”

The Blackhawks are rolling four lines again because their fourth line is bringing a solid game on both sides of the puck. Good timing.

“To go deep in the playoffs you need all four lines, all six [defensemen] and you need everyone to contribute any way they can,” Kruger said. “Playing with Andrew and Andrew has been a lot of fun for me. [They’re] two great players who love to play aggressive and forecheck and hold onto the puck down low. That helps me out a lot, and it’s been a lot of fun so far.”

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Calvin de Haan on unexpected trade to Blackhawks and what he brings to the table

Calvin de Haan on unexpected trade to Blackhawks and what he brings to the table

Calvin de Haan knew that the Carolina Hurricanes had a logjam on defense going into this summer and that somebody was going to be dealt to create a spot. The move was also driven by financial reasons as the Hurricanes look to re-sign a handful of players, most notably Sebastian Aho.

He just wasn't expecting it to be his name on the move.

"I'm still kind of in shock, to be honest," de Haan said on Tuesday's conference call. "I didn’t think it was going to be me. After Carolina signed me last summer my fiancée and I thought we were going to have some roots there, but I get it, it’s a business. Looking back on it now, it’s only been 16 hours or whatever, but it’s been a whirlwind. I’m really looking forward to it now. Obviously Stan [Bowman] and the Blackhawks made a deal for me and I feel like I’m wanted and I’m really looking forward to this opportunity with this organization."

De Haan, who signed a four-year, $18.2 million contract with Carolina last offseason, admitted that the Blackhawks didn't show any interest in him when he was an unrestricted free agent. But he's excited about being in an organization that values his services, and the feeling is mutual because he's filling an immediate need on the back end for the Blackhawks: a player who can log big minutes, is a sound stay-at-home defenseman and can play an effective role on the penalty kill.

Jeremy Colliton, who was the captain for the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers during de Haan's rookie season in the pros from 2011-12, will certainly appreciate what his former teammate brings to the table.

"I just like to think my position’s good," de Haan said of his game. "I like to think I move well on the ice. I’ve always tried to play a simple game. I saw some tweets yesterday that I might be the next best thing to Nik Hjalmarsson that the Blackhawks have had in a while, so that’s a compliment. That guy’s had a great career and that’s a player I like to play like. Nothing flashy, just kind of get the job done and I hope Blackhawk fans will really appreciate my game. It’s something I’m really looking forward to this season."  

De Haan underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in May — exactly five weeks from Tuesday — and was given a four-to-six month timeline, putting his availability for training camp and the season opener in jeopardy. But he's hoping to be cleared by the time training camp rolls around in September and be ready to go for the season opener on Oct. 4 in Prague.

"Things are progressing well," de Haan said. "I like to think I’m ahead of schedule. I’ve had shoulder surgeries in the past as well where I know how this goes and I’m gonna make sure I’m ready for camp. Then it’s going to be up to the training staff and the doctors whether they want me to play or take a few weeks here and there and just progress slowly. But my main goal is to be ready for camp. I don’t want to sit on the sidelines. I want to be on the ice with the guys and out there grinding away and try to get the team back in the playoffs."

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