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Hawks keep juggling lines without Kane, Hossa

by Brian Hedger / NHL.com
CHICAGO -- Joel Quenneville is known for shuffling his forward lines in the search of good combinations or a spark for a slumping attack.
 
Yet there is only so much shuffling the Chicago Blackhawks coach can do when those forwards keep dropping like flies.
 
Already down three forwards before Wednesday's 4-3 home loss to Colorado, the Hawks also lost Viktor Stalberg to an upper-body injury late in the second period against the Avs. He didn't return in the third and won't play in Friday's home game against the rival Detroit Red Wings (8:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).
 
That means despite getting forward Fernando Pisani back from an upper-body injury to face the Wings, Chicago still will need to recall a forward from Rockford of the American Hockey League -- probably Jeremy Morin -- to put together four lines.
 
Even with that, Quenneville has used two defensemen -- John Scott and Jordan Hendry -- as fourth-line forwards in the past three games. The Hawks don't want to lean on injuries as an excuse for their current three-game winless stretch (0-2-1), but there also is no denying the challenges they face with key forwards sidelined.
 
"It's never fun," said Hawks captain Jonathan Toews, whose top line has featured a number of different wings. "I think everything gets thrown out of whack a little bit and you need to adjust. Everyone is playing with different players and sometimes lines will even change in the middle of games, which isn't easy, either. Everything's a little simpler when guys are healthy and it's the same lineup every single night, but it's never a perfect world and you've got to learn how to play through that."
 
Along with Stalberg, Marian Hossa (lower body) also was ruled out for Friday's game and Patrick Kane was labeled "doubtful" by Quenneville with his own lower-body injury, which has kept him out since he got hurt Dec. 5 against Calgary.
 
Quenneville said Hossa skated Monday and Tuesday but will not play despite possibly skating Friday. He hasn't skated at all the past two days. Kane, meanwhile, didn't participate in any hard drills Thursday after skating the previous two days and even throwing out the possibility of returning Friday after Wednesday's morning skate.
 
On Thursday, Kane had to cut short a testing session and left the ice.
 
"It's part of the process," Quenneville said. "He might need a day off. He was out there for two days in a row and today he might have aggravated it. But I don't think it's to the extent where it's a step in the wrong direction."
 
It's just a continuation of a complicated situation for the injury-riddled Hawks, who enter Thursday's games 10th in the Western Conference standings after 33 games. While nobody in the Chicago locker room is ready to throw in the towel, they're also frustrated by continuing to lose close games in the third period -- something they didn't struggle with last season.
 
Of course, last season the Hawks had more experience on the roster prior to the summer turnover. Could losing these close games be the most glaring evidence of what the Hawks lost?
 
"It's tough to say," Quenneville said. "You know, you look at the playoff run we had last year, there were a number of games won by one goal and times tied in the third period and (we found) ways to win. That confidence is something we need to capture and something we need to improve upon."
 
And they have to do it regardless of what lines are together or what players are healthy enough to play. The one thing Quenneville doesn't want to hear is the term "snake bit."
 

"It's never fun. I think everything gets thrown out of whack a little bit and you need to adjust. Everyone is playing with different players and sometimes lines will even change in the middle of games, which isn't easy, either. Everything's a little simpler when guys are healthy and it's the same lineup every single night, but it's never a perfect world and you've got to learn how to play through that."
-- Jonathan Toews

"Whether it's a stretch or a trend or a game, it's not ever going to go your way," he said. "You have to make it go your way. Alternative measures is what we're all about -- finding a way to be successful. Both of these (losses against Colorado), we left a lot of meat on the table, but we're not getting it back. We need to find a way to chip away in the short term. We keep talking about the same thing. That's where we're at."
 
That message appears to be getting through to the Hawks, even if the recent results don't show it. Rather than bemoaning the inconsistencies caused by having so many forwards out, the Hawks are at least saying what Quenneville wants to hear as they prepare to face the Western Conference-leading Red Wings.
 
"I don't think it's a chemistry thing," said Jack Skille, who started the season on the third and fourth lines, but now is with Toews on the top line after Kane's injury. "We just need to work harder. When it comes to those 50/50 puck battles, we're not gritty enough sometimes. We lose those battles and turn over the puck. That's a big part of our game right now that we need to fix."
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