Blackhawks could make lineup changes for Game 4
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Changes may well be coming to the Chicago Blackhawks' lineup for Game 4 of the Western Conference Final.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is not shy about shaking things up after a loss. Well, Chicago has lost twice in a row now and has been badly outplayed in the final 20 minutes of each of those games. So, if recent history is to be our guide, it appears the lineup could have a new look for Game 4 on Monday at Staples Center (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS). Los Angeles leads the best-of-7 series 2-1.
Will it be new players in the lineup? Or will it just be a jumbling of the lines?
There were few clues when the team practiced Sunday afternoon at the Toyota Sports Center. The Blackhawks worked extensively on a struggling power play, one which has not scored on the road since Game 1 of the first-round series against the St. Louis Blues, but did not conduct line rushes.
"It would have been nice to get one on the power play [in Game 3]," Sharp said. "You see their power play went out and score, probably the difference in the game. Mix things up, try some new things and make sure you make it count [Monday].
"You make adjustments, you make changes throughout the course of a series. Joel is well known for that. We're used to that as players. Whatever he decides to throw at us we're going to adjust accordingly and apply it as best we can."
So, there will be adjustments in personnel and tactics on the power play, but will there be lineup changes as well?
Asked if Chicago will ice the same 12 forwards who played in the 4-3 loss in Game 3 on Saturday night, Quennevile was non-committal: "We'll see," he said.
It appears either Ben Smith or Andrew Shaw could move into the No. 2 center role held down by Michal Handzus for the past few games. Each player got a few shifts on the second line in the third period Saturday as Chicago looked for goals. Quenneville believes those two players are more effective offensively than Handzus.
There is, however, an issue when it comes to re-jiggering the forward lines with the Blackhawks. Simply, it is a hesitancy to mess with the top-line unit featuring Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. It has been the Blackhawks' most effective line at each end of the ice in this series. To tinker with it, which would almost become a necessity if you try to get struggling forwards like Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharpe going, threatens to damage chemistry.
"That's something you've always got to consider," Quenneville admitted. "We've always looked at options as we've gone along in series or games to make some adjustments if we don't like the way things are going.
"I don't know if we need major alterations. But we always look at making a tweak here or there. It couldn't happen."
The players also don't know if a major shakeup in the lines is coming. If it does come to pass, they are prepared to handle it; their coach is one of the most prolific line jugglers in the NHL today.
"As players, you want to be ready for anything when your name's called to go on the ice and be ready and try to keep the puck in their end and keep the pressure on," Kane said. "But it's probably more for the coaches to decide. Not every year is going to be the same, and you're not going to have the same experiences year to year. We'll see what happens."