Kane, Hawks hope changes provide spark

January, 10, 2014
Jan 10
4:47
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane didn't have to put too much thought into his game while he collected points over the past few months.

Kane went through a stretch between Nov. 3 and Dec. 28 where he registered points in 26 of 27 games. He didn't always feel like he was playing to his standards, but his stick was magic and the points still came.

Over the past week and a half, that magic has apparently abandoned Kane. He has recorded one point, an assist, in the last five games.

From a team standpoint, the Blackhawks have missed Kane's production as they have dropped three one-goal games in January.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville unveiled his plan Friday to spark Kane and the entire team. Quenneville made his most drastic line changes of the season and altered the second, third and fourth lines during practice at Johnny's IceHouse West on Friday.

Quenneville placed Kane with left winger Bryan Bickell and center Marcus Kruger on the second line. Bickell had been on the third line, and Kruger had been on the fourth line.

Quenneville also put together Kris Versteeg, Michal Handzus and Brandon Saad on the third line and Brandon Bollig, Andrew Shaw and Ben Smith on the fourth line. Versteeg and Handzus were previously on the second line, and Shaw had been on the third line.

Kane hopes the changes will put him on an offensive roll again.

"Why not? That's the way you got to look at it," he said. "I still feel like I play with a lot of different guys, and it'd be nice to be producing on the power play, draw some more penalties to produce there. As far as playing with different linemates, there haven't been too many switches or changes throughout the year. This is the first one I've really seen. It's exciting to play with new players."

Kane isn't panicking about his lack of points lately, but he is aware of the situation.

"I think it's one of those things you don't want to let it last too long, obviously," Kane said. "You feel like every game you want to work as hard as you can to get yourself out of it. Sometimes when you're going through stretches where you're getting points and things are clicking, sometimes you're still not playing as well as you'd like. But you don't worry about it because you're getting points.

"Now that points aren't coming, you want to think about your game a little bit and maybe make sure working hard to either get chances or play well defensively, contribute in some way. Hopefully I can get back to that level. It'd be nice to do that sooner than later."

Quenneville said he moved Kruger because he earned that opportunity. As for Bickell's line change, Quenneville said it had more to do with trying to help Bickell get on track. Bickell has two points and a minus-5 rating in 10 games since returning from a knee injury Dec. 17.

Bickell is grateful for the chance to prove himself on the second line.

"I think he's giving more opportunities to go out and reach and maybe give me some confidence to get my game where it was," Bickell said. "He believes in me, and I believe in myself. It wasn't good as of late, and he's just giving me an opportunity to get it back."

Quenneville also said placing Shaw, who has been a fixture on the third line, onto the fourth line had to do with his recently subpar play. Shaw has had a negative rating in four of the Blackhawks' past seven games.

"I think that whether it's him or that line lately they've been giving up some goals at some tough times of the game," Quenneville said. "He's been in a stretch where he's been ordinary for the way he contributes. Sometimes on a merit basis you try things. Some guys get rewarded; some guys they got to work to get it back."
Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Sharp
PTS GOALS AST +/-
78 34 44 13
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Sharp 34
AssistsD. Keith 55
+/-M. Hossa 28
GAAC. Crawford 2.26