CHICAGO -- Based on line rushes from the morning skate, the Chicago Blackhawks will go back to the forward lines they used in the first two games of the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks for Game 4 at United Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).
Antoine Vermette will return to his spot at center of the third line, rookie forward Teuvo Teravainen will play right wing on that line, and forward Andrew Shaw will head back to right wing on the fourth line. Leaving the lineup after playing in Chicago’s 2-1 loss in Game 3 are forwards Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom.
Anaheim leads the best-of-7 series 2-1.
Vermette was most outspoken about coach Joel Quenneville’s decision to sit him for Game 3 but Saturday said his focus now is only on the game at hand.
“It’s a tough position,” Vermette said. “It’s not easy [being scratched], but I’ve got to move on and that’s behind us. I’ve got to be ready for tonight.”
The third forward on Vermette’s line will be left wing Patrick Sharp, and Quenneville said he's hoping the line adds the depth it did earlier in the series.
“[They had] some good stretches there in Game 2,” Quenneville said. “I think that line can be a factor offensively. I think defensively they've been reliable in stretches as well. Just some pace and energy across the board, that four-line rotation that we felt was best in Game 2, is what we're looking for.”
Vermette has struggled to score since coming to the Blackhawks from the Arizona Coyotes at the NHL Trade Deadline. He didn’t score a goal for Chicago in 19 regular-season games and finished with three assists prior to the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In the postseason, Vermette has a goal and assist in 10 games. His plus-4 rating is better than the minus-2 he had with Chicago in the regular season. He’s been Chicago's most successful player on faceoffs, winning 59.5 percent in the playoffs.
“Obviously, you’d like to get more out of [the goals] department, but I like my game,” Vermette said. “I’m playing well. I had a strong game, I thought, [in Game 2], and the chances are there. We’re generating some good looks.”
Sharp, Vermette and Teravainen didn’t have a lot of success to start in Game 2 against the Ducks, but they played better as the game progressed. Some of their best shifts happened well past the end of regulation, which helped the Blackhawks regain some key time with the puck in the offensive zone. Chicago won 3-2 in triple overtime.
“We found a way to get more puck possession, I thought,” Vermette said. “We had the puck a little more, we created a [few] more openings and got some chances out of it. We’ve been playing well together and hopefully we’ll be right back at it.”
Moving Shaw back to the right wing could boost the fourth line. Shaw, who centered the third line in Game 3, had settled into a comfort zone on that unit. He, center Marcus Kruger and left wing Andrew Desjardins became an effective puck-possession line because of their ability to win puck battles and force turnovers. When playing center, it’s harder to for Shaw to forecheck.
“You're always last to leave your zone,” he said. “You're playing down low in your end, so it's hard to get on the forecheck.”
He won’t have to worry about that in Game 4. Kruger will play down low for that line, which will free up Shaw to jumpstart the forecheck at the other end of the rink. The Blackhawks are counting on a big game from him and their bottom two lines.
Here are the projected lineups:
Patrick Maroon - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Matt Beleskey - Ryan Kesler - Jakob Silfverberg
Andrew Cogliano - Nate Thompson - Kyle Palmieri
Jiri Sekac - Rickard Rakell - Emerson Etem
Hampus Lindholm - Francois Beauchemin
Cam Fowler - Simon Despres
Clayton Stoner - Sami Vatanen
Scratched: Korbinian Holzer, James Wisniewski, Chris Wagner, Tomas Fleischmann, Tim Jackman, Jason LaBarbera
Brandon Saad – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
Bryan Bickell – Brad Richards – Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp – Antoine Vermette – Teuvo Teravainen
Andrew Desjardins – Marcus Kruger – Andrew Shaw
Duncan Keith – Niklas Hjalmarsson
Johnny Oduya – Kyle Cumiskey
Kimmo Timonen – Brent Seabrook
Scratched: Kris Versteeg, Joakim Nordstrom, David Rundblad, Daniel Carcillo, Antti Raanta
Injured: Michal Rozsival (fractured ankle)
Status report: Kruger said he doesn’t have a nagging injury that caused him to not take any faceoffs in Game 3. Asked if he expects to take faceoffs in Game 4, Kruger said, “We’ll see how it is.”
Who’s hot: Kane scored his eighth goal of the playoffs in Game 3 and has 14 points.