Q juggles lines, looks to end skid
February, 6, 2012
By Jesse Rogers
Bill Smith/Getty ImagesMarian Hossa has played with several different centermen, and now it's back to Dave Bolland.CHICAGO -- A change in net wasn't the only new look at Blackhawks practice on Monday as the team prepared for the second leg of a nine-game road trip.
Once again coach Joel Quenneville has altered his forward lines, looking to end a season-worst five-game slide. He's electing to return Dave Bolland to the second line between Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. That line has been quiet lately and will see its third center in four games since the All-Star break.
Brendan Morrison lasted two games in that spot but generated very little for himself or his teammates. By the time the Hawks took to the ice in Calgary, Marcus Kruger was back on the second line while Morrison was moved down. Now it's back to Bolland as general manager Stan Bowman undoubtedly continues to look for the right center to play there.
Morrison lasting only two games means Quenneville saw what was apparent after one game: he simply doesn't have the quickness or speed to make that line go. And while most times two games aren't enough of a sample size to make a judgement on anything, in this case, maybe it was. It became apparent quickly why the Hawks had to give up very little for a veteran player playing a much coveted position.
The New Lines
Andrew Brunette was missing due to an upper body injury so this is how they skated without him on Monday:
Hossa, in particular, likes having the same centerman, but that hasn't been the case since he became a Blackhawk. There was Patrick Sharp then Dave Bolland then Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw, Michael Frolik and Brendan Morrison, just to name a few.
Sharp hasn't been used there this season, but come playoffs he might still be the best option at this point. Bolland will undoubtedly take his normal role as the checking line center unless something changes during this next stretch. He's more than proven himself there while the jury remains out on his abilities on the second line. Maybe we'll find out once and for all during this run.
Stalberg was feeling good on the top line for a while, but half his goals have come against Columbus so a switch there wasn't a huge surprise. That line was better at home when matchups were easier for the Hawks. Quenneville needs to find the right ones for the road with six games still remaining on the trip, though changing them even during tough times is sure to drive some fans mad.
"It's just a practice, I don't know what it's going to be like tomorrow [Tuesday]," Stalberg said. "It keeps you on your toes a little more. A lot of coaches around the league do that. We haven't been winning games lately so changing little things up might not be a bad thing."
It's the age-old question: Change lines when they stall out or let the chemistry they've developed get them out of the funk? New lines need new chemistry and may take longer to gel. It's a Catch-22. Quenneville has proven he's more likely to change them then to keep them the same.
"I don't know if anyone is really a Giants fan," Stalberg said of potential Giants fans in the locker room. "Kane is Buffalo. Not much to cheer for [there] these days."
"He earned the last one. He kept winning and we kept going with him. I think the situation here is it seems every time he's been in the net he's done well and he gives us a chance." -- Joel Quenneville, on Tuesday's starter in net, Ray Emery.