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Vrbata Vaults To Top Line

by Staff Writer / Chicago Blackhawks

According to winger Martin Lapointe, there are two guys on the Blackhawks' roster who can take the puck end-to-end and make something happen -- Martin Havlat and Radim Vrbata.

Now the Blackhawks' most skilled pair will get a chance to make something happen as linemates.

Vrbata replaced left wing Michael Holmqvist on the top line at practice Tuesday, skating with Havlat and Michal Handzus. Holmqvist was bumped to the 4th line with Jeff Hamilton and wingers Reed Low and Adam Burish.

The move isn't so much a demotion for Holmqvist, who has one assist through two games this season, as it is a promotion for Vrbata.

"I just like the chemistry between the three of them," Yawney said. "The game against Minnesota on the road I played them together and they had a lot of poise and really settled things down when things went a little haywire for us."

"These are the guys management brought in to carry the team," Vrbata said of Havlat and Handzus. "I'm just glad we'll be playing together against Nashville and we'll see how that goes."

Vrbata appeared in 45 games with the Blackhawks last season after being acquired from Carolina. He registered 34 points (13 goals, 21 assists) and a plus-4 rating. He recorded eight multi-point games with the Hawks last year and had three goals and three assists this preseason.

Yawney also adjusted his number two line Tuesday, shuffling Bryan Smolinski and Denis Arkhipov to center and left wing, respectively. Tony Salmelainen jumped from the 4th line to Vrbata's vacated spot on right wing.

Yawney hopes the move will jump start Salmelainen, who led the Finnish league in scoring last season.

"He's got to start establishing himself in the league too," Yawney said. "He's been here before. The way the game is played today should be tailor made for the skills that he possesses. I think Smoke is a good compliment for him and we need more production out of him."

Salmelainen scored 22 goals and had 24 assists in 76 games with Edmonton of the American Hockey League in 2004-05. The previous year, Salmelainen appeared in 13 games with the Edmonton Oilers and split time between Toronto and Hamilton in the AHL.

The 3rd line remained in tact Tuesday with Patrick Sharp centering Rene Bourque on left wing and Martin Lapointe on right wing.

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