It looks like the only person experimenting with lines more than Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville these days is Charlie Sheen…
Reports are that, for Tuesday night’s game against the Stars, Quenneville will again keep Ben Eager on the bench. Because of how effective it was reuniting Patrick Sharp with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, that will remain the top line. Andrew Ladd will move back up onto the second line, playing with Dave Bolland and Marian Hossa. One of the surprises is the third line, where Kris Versteeg appears set to spend some time at center between Troy Brouwer and Dustin Byfuglien. Tomas Kopecky, who was thrilled after skating with Hossa on Saturday and played well in the change, moves back to the fourth line, where he’ll again skate with Colin Fraser (at wing) and John Madden.
The third line of Byfuglien-Versteeg-Brouwer looks especially intriguing, with two big, hitting forward on either side of Versteeg, a smooth criminal who moves the puck exceptionally well in space. Versteeg has been a central figure in many trade rumors lately, so moving him back to center has a bit of intrigue to it because of that potential as well.
The changes would figure to impact Brouwer’s production the most. He was scoring at a pace he’s never displayed at the NHL level while skating with Toews and Kane, and provided a physical force on the line that created space for Kane and Toews to create. However, the creativity on the line with Sharp, Kane and Toews was good last year for most of the season, and it contributed both of the Hawks’ goals in Saturday’s victory.
Antti Niemi will start in net on Tuesday.