CHICAGO – Desperate times call for desperate measures, which is way it appears that the Blackhawks will make one big adjustment to their forward lines for tonight’s elimination game against the Red Wings at the United Center.
Throughout the Western Conference semifinals, Chicago has played its top scoring forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on separate lines. But the two will work together on a line with left wing Patrick Sharp as centers Michal Handzus and Toews switch roles for Game 5.
Handzus, the 36-year-old who was re-acquired by the Blackhawks at the April trade deadline, will center a line between Marian Hossa and Bryan Bickell.
The opposite was true for the Red Wings in Game 7 of the Anaheim series, when coach Mike Babcock elected to reunite Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk on the same line.
“They’re two very skilled players,” Zetterberg said. “They’ve been playing with each other for many years, so they know each other good and it’s going to be a challenge for us to handle that.”
Kane has been responsible for a third of the Blackhawks’ offense in this series, netting two goals, while Toews, who tied for the team lead in goals during the regular season, has been held off the score sheet by the Red Wings’ defense, led by goalie Jimmy Howard, who has allowed just two goals in the last three games.
The Blackhawks are desperate, but Kane is excited at the prospect of playing alongside Chicago’s captain in a must-win game.
“We played a couple of years ago together a lot and we were hot, scoring a lot of goals,” Kane said. “You want to think about scoring chances and creating things. … As far as being a big game player, I think all of us want to be that guy.”
The ’Hawks hope the move frees Toews from the shackles of being shadowed by Zetterberg, who has done a magnificent defensive job against the Toews.
Now Zetterberg most likely must contend with a much bigger Handzus, who is 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds.
“He’s good on faceoffs, he’s strong on his stick,” said Zetterberg, of the 14-year veteran. “You have to try to move a lot, skate a lot and try to find open spots. He’s been around the league for many, many years. He’s a good player, and if that’s the case it will be a little different look for our line, but we’ll handle that in our way.”
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