Normally we talk about Joel Quenneville “mixing” up his lines, but at practice Tuesday the Blackhawks coach brought out some good ol’ TNT in hopes of igniting his team’s struggling offense.
“We didn’t score meaningful goals in the last three or four games with the games being on the line,” Quenneville said.
Here’s what you can expect to see when the Hawks play at Washington on Wednesday:
Jonathan Toews will be flanked by Ryan Hartman and John Hayden, while Brandon Saad was moved down to play with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov.
Nick Schmaltz is back at center, where he will have Lance Bouma and Alex DeBrincat as his wingers. The fourth line features Richard Panik (who hasn’t scored in 18 games), Patrick Sharp (who has 1 goal in the last 21) and Tommy Wingels.
“Looks like we can have balance on all the lines and purpose without the puck as well,” Quenneville said. “That’s what we’re looking for.”
Moving Schmaltz away from Kane and Anisimov is surprising considering how well those three worked together over the past three weeks. Schmaltz said he felt like that line had some good chances and zone time the past few games, but the bottom line is they haven’t produced enough on the scoresheet.
“When coaches are putting you out more and more and more, you’ve got to produce,” Schmaltz said. “Last couple games we came up empty, so not a bad thing to shake up the lines (and try to) get some guys going. Hopefully I can get going up the middle and try to jump-start this whole team.”
Many have wondered when DeBrincat will earn a spot on Toews’ line, but Quenneville continues to mostly shield the rookie from the other team’s top defensive pair. It’s worked as DeBrincat has 10 goals in the last 15 games.
“Me and Brinker have been out there and scored a few goals together,” Schmaltz said. “I know he can bury the puck so I’ll be looking for him.”
Joel Quenneville said Corey Crawford should get back on the ice Wednesday. The Hawks’ goalie is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury and could return for Friday’s game when the Hawks host Buffalo.
“He’s showing good progress today, so we’re encouraged,” Quenneville said.