Blackhawks checking line finds chemistry again

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Blackhawks checking line finds chemistry again

COLUMBUS, Ohio Its clear what the Blackhawks are looking for in their checking line: stop opponents from scoring first, and get any offense you can on your end.

The Blackhawks latest checking-line group has the potential to work both sides very well.

Bryan Bickell, Dave Bolland and Viktor Stalberg have formed some chemistry again and it was evident in the Blackhawks 4-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday night. The trio, which was together earlier this season, has looked comfortable again. And coach Joel Quenneville liked what he saw on Thursday.

With Stals speed and Bicks size, its little things that help us out there, Bolland said. Its always helpful having two big guys on your line that have some speed.

They had long cycles in the offensive zone, a lot of puck possession time, Quenneville said. Were not happy about the one goal (they gave up to Carl Hagelin) but they did a lot of good things. They were controlling the play a lot and had the puck a lot. Thats where were looking to be at.

Indeed, the three were playing their best defense on Thursday with the offensive chances they created on the other end. Both Stalberg and Bolland had prime opportunities, something they havent had in a while.

Its a team game, and when we have chances wed like to bury them. But its nice to start getting them again. It seemed like they dried up lately, Stalberg said. We have to take advantage of them and get more comfortable in those areas. If we can keep the puck in their end and cycle, thats going to be better for us.

Bolland said, with Stals speed and Bicks size, its the little things that help us out there. Its always helpful having two big guys on your line that have some speed.

Of the three, Stalbergs adjusting to the checking-line role the most. His first indoctrination came with these two earlier this season and hes embracing the challenge.

Its something I want to learn and want to get better at. Last night was a step in the right direction, said Stalberg.

Yes, we all know Quennevilles propensity for switching line combinations. We also know that when a line shows some chemistry, it gets a chance. This trio should get a decent one.

We compliment each other, all three of us. It seems like were making pretty good plays, playing simple, Stalberg said. If we take care of our end well get our chances. Last night we did. Wed like to bury them but thats going to happen at some point.

Blackhawks tinker with lines vs. Avalanche

Blackhawks tinker with lines vs. Avalanche

Corey Crawford will get the start and the Blackhawks' lines will have a very different look when they face the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center.

Not surprisingly, the Blackhawks' second line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane remain the same. Those three are still doing the bulk of the scoring. The top line is now Ryan Hartman and Richard Panik with Jonathan Toews while Marian Hossa goes to the third line with Vinnie Hinostroza and Tanner Kero.

As with any line changes, it's clear the Blackhawks, who are riding a two-game losing streak, aren't happy with how things have been going. 

"You gotta get the message and I think everyone can compete harder, at least a little harder than we have the last few games," Toews said. "Sometimes you go through spurts when you're not playing with the most energy or firing on all cylinders. You just have to find ways to play smart and still create but still limit the chances you give up against."

Hossa said everyone else needs to help the second line.

"[There's] one line consistent on the offensive side. The other lines have a good stretches and then we have dry stretches. We're trying to find where it's no longer just one line consistent on production," Hossa said. "It's going good for a little bit but then we have a dry stretch and I don't know way, exactly. But we have to find [a solution] before the playoffs start."

Marcus Kruger did not make the trip with the Blackhawks. Coach Joel Quenneville expected Kruger to skate in Chicago on Tuesday. Quenneville added that he's going back to 12 forwards and six defensemen in tonight's game. The defensive scratch was unknown.

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Meanwhile, the Avalanche have had an awful season and now trade rumors abound for a team that could part with several players. Colorado general manager Joe Sakic told the Denver Post there were only three untouchables in the organization. Gabriel Landeskog ($5.57 million cap hit through 2020-21) and Matt Duchene ($6 million hit through 2018-19) would be coveted at the trade deadline by teams that can afford them.

This is the third meeting between these two teams. The Blackhawks beat the Avs 4-0 on Nov. 3 before the Avalanche took the Dec. 23 game 2-1. The Avalanche have been especially bad at home, going 5-15-1 at the Pepsi Center this season.

Broadcast information

Time: 7 p.m.
TV: CSN
Live stream: CSNChicago.com

Blackhawks forward lines

Ryan Hartman-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Vinnie Hinostroza-Tanner Kero-Marian Hossa
Andrew Desjardins-Dennis Rasmussen-Nick Schmaltz

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Brian Campbell-Brent Seabrook
Michal Rozsival-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries

Marcus Kruger (right arm)

Avalanche forward lines

Mikko Rantanen-Nathan Mackinnon-Gabriel Bourque
Gabriel Landeskog-Matt Duchene-Matthew Nieto
Blake Comeau-Carl Soderberg-Jarome Iginla
Andreas Martinsen-John Mitchell-Mikhail Gregorenko

Defensive pairs

Fedor Tyutin-Tyson Barrie
Francois Beauchemin-NikitaZadorov
Patrick Wiercioch-Cody Goloubef

Goaltender

Semyon Varlamov

Injuries

Erik Johnson (broken leg)

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Avalanche tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Avalanche tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Colorado Avalanche tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Keep it simple.

There is no team in the league that scores fewer goals per game (2.00) and allows more goals per game (3.32) than the Avalanche, who are 4-18-1 in their last 23 games, including 1-7-0 in their past eight. The Blackhawks need to keep it simple, get bodies in front of the net and take advantage on special teams against a team that ranks in the bottom-seven in both the power play and penalty kill.

2. Will Jonathan Toews' success against Colorado continue?

It's been a tough year for the Blackhawks captain, who has only seven goals and 21 points in 37 games, including three points in his last seven. Earlier this season he went 13 consecutive games without a goal, and snapped that on Dec. 23 against Colorado in a 2-1 overtime loss. He recorded a season-high seven shots on goal in that game, and has scored a goal in each of his last four contests against the Avalanche. They seem to be his slumpbuster, so perhaps he'll come through again.

3. Marian Hossa's impact.

In the first meeting of the season, Hossa scored two goals in a 4-0 win over Colorado. In the second, the Blackhawks were without him after he was sidelined with an upper-body injury, and fell 2-1 in overtime. The Blackhawks are nearly at full strength this time around, with Marcus Kruger the lone injured player who's recovering from an apparent hand injury.

4. Nathan MacKinnon.

After a solid showing at the World Cup of Hockey last fall, MacKinnon was considered a strong candidate to have a breakout season with a new head coach that preaches an up-tempo style of play, right up MacKinnon's ally. But he hasn't reached that level yet, with 28 points in 41 games. Not bad, but not great by his standards as the No. 1 overall pick in 2013. He scored the overtime winner and added an assist in last month's victory against Chicago at the United Center.

5. Short shifts.

This will be the third meeting of the year between the two teams, but the first one in Colorado. Due to the high altitude in the Mile-High City, expect Joel Quenneville to distribute the minutes more evenly throughout their four lines and intstruct the Blackhawks to be short with their shifts, no longer than 40 seconds.

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