Andrew Shaw never saw himself as a second-line center, at least when he first got into the league.
“I always said I’d be happy if I made the NHL and played five minutes a night,” Shaw said on Thursday. “Now I’m pushing myself more and pushing to achieve those goals.”
The pushing has worked. Shaw has logged several games at second-line center between Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane, and he’s feeling more comfortable there with each passing contest. Coach Joel Quenneville, talking before the Blackhawks’ loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, said he’s liked what he’s seen from the trio.
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“Offensively, lot there. Everybody can do things together and they all can make plays on their own,” Quenneville said. “The three of them together is the makings of a line that can be productive. But what they’re doing without the puck is how we want to gauge it. Defensively, what they’re giving up is the best way to measure their effectiveness. They can create enough. We want to see them have more production, more chances for sure on their own side. And they’ve been like that so far.”
The three do all bring a little something different. In playing with Kane, especially, Shaw said he doesn’t try to do anything fancy. He lets Kane do that.
“He’s going to make great plays because he’s a great player,” Shaw said. “All I have to do is create space for him and create traffic.”
It has to be a bonus playing with the likes of Kane but Shaw is still adjusting to the second-line center role. He said he’s getting used to more ice time – he’s gone from playing around 13 minutes to 18-19 minutes a game – as well as being the go-to line when the Blackhawks need a boost on offense. Shaw said Quenneville talks to him about what he needs to do and he also gets advice from Kane, who sits at the next stall in the Blackhawks’ locker room.
“I always ask him if there’s anything I can do to get better,” Shaw said of Kane. “He’s positive. He says to outwork the opponent and we’ll be in their end all night. When we do that, we create offense and score goals along the way.”
Quenneville has said several times that Shaw at second-line center could be a longer-term solution. That could still happen, although when the Blackhawks struggled against the Wild on Thursday, the line changes began. Kane ended the night on the top line with Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews. Still, Shaw has gained experience in another spot on the team. And if it does continue there, he welcomes it.
“My confidence level’s higher and I think I’ve picked up some skill along the way,” Shaw said. “The work ethic’s always been there. I’ll just keep plugging away.”