Fourth line coming up big for Blackhawks

Fourth line coming up big for Blackhawks
November 26, 2013, 6:15 pm
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CALGARY, Alberta — Marcus Kruger and Brandon Bollig set up Johnny Oduya’s goal against Edmonton on Monday. Kruger had the game-winner vs. Vancouver two nights before that. Ben Smith chipped in a goal in the Blackhawks’ victory over Winnipeg last week.

A point here, a point there – and lately for the Blackhawks’ fourth liners, there’s been a point to go around everywhere.

“We’re not out there to score goals,” Bollig said. “But if it happens, it’s a bonus and we’ll take it.”

They’ll take the assists, too, as the fourth liners of Bollig, Kruger and Smith have been getting their share of both lately. Kruger has points in four of his last five games; Smith has points in three of his last five. Part of the Blackhawks’ successful brand of hockey is all four lines contributing, and their fourth line has done that well in recent games.

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“They’ve scored some big goals on this trip,” coach Joel Quenneville said following the Blackhawks’ 5-1 victory over Edmonton on Monday night. “Whether you want to look at it as a bonus goal or a timely goal, they’ve been out there for it. They’re (showing) responsibility. They start a lot of shifts in our end and a lot of times they end up in the other teams’ end. So they do a lot of good things.”

While the Blackhawks have gone through several line changes with recent injuries, the fourth line has stayed intact. It’s helped the three develop chemistry, something that was palpable last season, especially between Kruger and former teammate Michael Frolik. Bollig, Kruger and Smith have a good dose of it, be it from their Rockford playing days or now.

“The more we play together, the more chemistry we create and the more you know where the other guys are going to be and you can feed off it,” Bollig said. “It’s nice to play knowing where your linemates are going to be.”

The scoring, again, is just gravy. As Smith said, they’re out there to be responsible on the other side of the puck first.

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“We’re really just trying to play well defensively,” Smith said. “We’ve been working on it, harping on it. It’s not always perfect but, for the most part, we’re doing a pretty good job. It’s nice to get the opportunities against other teams’ big guys and have some success.”

Whatever that fourth line generates, it’s benefitting the Blackhawks. They’re rolling four lines more now, spreading the minutes around again. Bollig, Kruger and Smith have earned the extra time and they’ve done good things with it.

“It’s been nice to be together for a while now and have some chemistry,” Smith said. “We’re confident. We’re trying to keep things simple and we’ve been fortunate to get a couple bounces and get on the board. Hopefully we can keep doing that.”