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'Fresh legs' don't help Blackhawks in Game 3

by Brian Hedger / Chicago Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Joel Quenneville likes options, so the Chicago Blackhawks coach used two Thursday in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks.

Rather than sticking with the lineup that won Game 2 3-2 in triple overtime on Tuesday, he replaced center Antoine Vermette and rookie forward Teuvo Teravainen with Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom.

The moves changed Chicago's bottom two lines but failed to pay dividends in a 2-1 loss at United Center that put the Blackhawks behind 2-1 in the best-of-7 series.

Quenneville said the changes weren't related to injuries, but the length of Game 2 did play a role.

"We just wanted to get some fresh legs in there," Quenneville said. "We felt that [Versteeg] never played over a long stretch there in the last series and we wanted to get him back in there. Tough game the other day with travel and we wanted to bring some new guys in."

Nordstrom hadn't played since April 17, in Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round against the Nashville Predators. Versteeg's most recent action was April 25, Game 6 of that series, which the Blackhawks won 4-3 to advance.

"I thought there was going to be a little bit more [rust], but I actually felt pretty good being out there," said Nordstrom, who played right wing on the fourth line. "There haven't been really any battle drills during practices, so that was probably the biggest [challenge]. But I felt real comfortable right off the bat going out there and just getting a hit and getting right into it."

Versteeg had the opposite experience.

"I hadn't played in a month, and to come into a Western Conference Final against a team like that, [those] first two shifts it was like I was standing still on a speedway track for a little bit," he said. "But after that, I felt like I was back in the rhythm."

Versteeg played 13:31 and finished with one shot and three hits. Nordstrom played 7:06, was minus-1, and was on the ice for each of the Anaheim goals, including the one scored by defenseman Simon Despres that made it 2-1 with 55 seconds left in the second period.

Nordstrom, who played one shift in the third, said he thought Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf was going to take a slap shot from the blue line. Getzlaf waited until Nordstrom dropped to a knee and fed Despres alone in the right faceoff circle, where his one-timer beat goalie Corey Crawford to the short side.

"I came out to block the shot and he passed it," Nordstrom said. "It was a good play."

It wasn't exactly how the Blackhawks would've drawn it up defensively, and small miscues often decide tight games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It was kind of defended the way we wanted, but you know, [we] had to get in the shooting lane," Quenneville said.

It's tough to predict what lineup the Blackhawks might use in Game 4 here on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). The moves he made Thursday broke up a couple of lines that seemed to work pretty well to start the series in Anaheim.

Vermette's absence not only took out the Blackhawks' most successful center on faceoffs, but created a void that was filled by moving Andrew Shaw, who had played wing on the fourth line since Game 3 of the first round.

Shaw and Andrew Desjardins helped center Marcus Kruger turn that line into one of Chicago's best at winning puck battles and possessing the puck. Nordstrom played Shaw's spot instead, and Versteeg played right wing on the third line in place of Teravainen.

Neither move worked. Nordstrom and Versteeg didn't have any offensive production, and Shaw won five of 14 faceoffs.

"We're looking at everything," Quenneville said. "We'll consider all our options. We could have changed our lineup after the first game, after we lost the first game. Those guys [Versteeg and Nordstrom] hadn't played. We got them back together, got them some ice. That's what we're looking at."

It can't be easy for the forwards who might be on the bubble for playing time, but Versteeg had some advice.

"That's why we're professionals," he said. "You've got to stay ready and you've got to stay mentally fit and ready, more than physically, at times."

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