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Blackhawks' Teravainen looks to carve permanent role

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks needed someone to break the ice.

Trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning 1-0 late in Game 1 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, it was starting to look like goalie Ben Bishop would lead the Lightning to a shutout at Amalie Arena.

Instead, in a flash, a 20-year old Finnish rookie changed the script. Teuvo Teravainen, Chicago's baby-faced forward, scored the tying goal and then followed it with a defensive play that led directly to the eventual game-winner scored by Antoine Vermette, all in a 1:58 span.

Asked about the diminutive Teravainen (5-foot-11, 178 pounds) after the Blackhawks won 2-1, right wing Marian Hossa delivered a quote that went viral.

"He doesn't have a heartbeat," said Hossa, a veteran of 18 NHL seasons. "He's so calm. He's Finnish cold."

Hossa is an avid automobile aficionado and racing fan. The reference, he said, stems from Kimi Raikkonen, a Finnish Formula 1 driver known as "The Iceman." Raikkonen is said to drive with ice in his veins, and that's how Hossa sees Teravainen as a hockey player.

"When he first came here he was always quiet and didn't smile much; even when he scored," Hossa said Saturday. "So he reminded me of that type of guy. But once you get to know him he gets a little bit warmer and I think he's a pretty funny guy."

Teravainen, who was selected by Chicago with the 18th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, also is an important guy for the Blackhawks, this season and into the future. If the Blackhawks are going to keep doing special things, then young players like Teravainen must reach their full potential.

The goal is to cultivate a second wave of core-group elite players, with Teravainen at the front of the pack. His play during the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season announced his arrival to the NHL, but the Blackhawks feel Teravainen has a lot more talent yet to be realized.

"He's definitely got something in him, something special," Hossa said. "He can create something out of nothing, and that's always special when a player has that in his toolbox. He definitely has something like that. He can make plays you wouldn't expect. Out of nothing … he can make something."

The Lightning learned that in the Cup Final. Other teams will learn it soon enough. Still, Teravainen is looking to carve out a more permanent role this season.

Heading into the Blackhawks' game at the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN), he's centering the third line. It's the third spot he's been deployed in since the start of training camp. He started the season-opener game against the New York Rangers at left wing on the first line. It's a spot that has proven tricky to fill after an offseason trade sent Brandon Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets

It requires meshing with captain Jonathan Toews and Hossa, which isn't as easy as it sounds. Teravainen spent one full game in that spot. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wasn't entirely happy with the initial chemistry and moved him back to center, where he gets the puck more.

He's now playing with forwards Bryan Bickell and Viktor Tikhonov, and the combination might take some time to click. Teravainen, who has one goal and one assist in three games, doesn't mind.

"When I'm playing good it doesn't really matter where I play," he said. "Same thing if I'm not playing good. It doesn't matter which position I'm playing. I've just got to find my game. Right now I'm feeling good. I'm pretty confident out there. So I don't think it really matters where I'm going to play."

That doesn't mean he wouldn't enjoy another crack at playing with Toews and Hossa at some point. What player wouldn't?

"We have to find out [if I'm] able to play with those guys," Teravainen said. "I need to be fast and I need to be smart and play a fast game with those guys. Everybody wants the puck. And we've just got to create some chemistry. If we play together we're going to be good I think. It just takes a while."

Until Quenneville grants Teravainen that second chance, he'll keep searching for his top gear while centering Bickell and Tikhonov, whose anticipation skills might need some polish.

"You've got to be ready," Bickell said. "He's sneaky. He seems like he's looking over [there], but he's really looking over here. So he makes plays and keeps everybody on their toes."

It's an uncommon skill, even in the NHL, but the Blackhawks are loading up on players who have it. Russian rookie Artemi Panarin is similar in build and style to Teravainen, and they're each similar players to right wing Patrick Kane, who currently is playing on a line with Panarin.

Once Teravainen heats up, the Blackhawks could again have a gear that most teams can't match.

"He's becoming more and more comfortable," Hossa said. "Playing more games is only going to help him and you're going to see a great player for the future. He's maybe a tiny guy but he's much smarter than so many other players. And that's what's so special about the guy. He is a great playmaker, but also he can finish."

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