Facing the possibility of an early summer isn’t where the Blackhawks wanted to be after the first four games of the Western Conference First Round, and in order to avoid being one of the first teams to be eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Head Coach Joel Quenneville has made several lineup changes heading into a must-win Game 5.
Quenneville’s biggest adjustment was to exercise his “nuclear option” by reuniting captain Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, neither of whom has found the back of the net so far in the series. Kane does have four assists through four games, while Toews has a pair of helpers, so getting the pair going will one of the keys to winning Game 5 and returning the series to Chicago.
“It’s helped in the past,” said Marian Hossa regarding the reunion of the Blackhawks’ dynamic duo. “Those two are magicians.” Toews and Kane will be joined by Richard Panik on the left wing, who should add speed and a bit of physicality to the mix.
Hossa and Andrew Ladd, Toews’ regular wingers, will be centered by Marcus Kruger tonight. The combination of two-way veterans could be expected to play a checking role, but any offensive contributions would certainly be welcome, as Chicago’s bottom six has struggled to find the scoresheet in this series.
That means Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov will be joined by Teuvo Teravainen to form a creative second line, and with Andrew Shaw serving a one-game suspension, the fourth line has also been reconfigured.
Quenneville also confirmed after morning skate that David Rundblad would replace Michal Rozsival on the blue line, as the Blackhawks maximize their offensive options. Rundblad hasn’t skated in the NHL since Dec. 13, but did enjoy productive stints overseas with the Zurich Lions (16 points in 15 games) and in the minors with the Rockford IceHogs (four points in 10 games).
"We’re not looking at winning three games in a row here,” Kane said, summing up the team’s get-it-done mentality. “Play desperate, and make sure the season isn’t ending tonight."
Forward lines at morning skate:
Panik - Toews - Kane
Panarin - Anisimov - Teravainen
Ladd - Kruger - Hossa
Mashinter - Desjardins - Weise