The chemistry that Viktor Stalberg, Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell built up as part of the Blackhawks’ third line was evident. Playing 24 consecutive games together will help develop that.
But when Patrick Sharp went down with a shoulder injury last week, Bickell and Stalberg each got their shot on the second line in the next two games. Be it the disrupted chemistry, fatigue or just the fact that the Blackhawks were due for losses, it didn’t work.
So on Wednesday, thanks in part to a call-up from Rockford, the Blackhawks’ third line was together again.
Jimmy Hayes was recalled from the IceHogs and put on the second line with Dave Bolland and Patrick Kane, and the Blackhawks’ lines were basically back to where they were during their 24-game unbeaten streak on Wednesday. Hayes was in the injured Sharp’s vacated left-wing spot, giving him a chance to play with the red-hot Kane. The top line was the familiar Brandon Saad-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa combo and Daniel Carcillo joined Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik on the fourth line.
And for the third line, it’s the chance to be together again.
“Just watching them today in practice, it was nice to see them back together,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “When we look at it, it’s almost like, ‘Which line going to be our best line?’ They’re capable of being as good as any one on a given night, be it (with) zone time, speed off the attack or finish. They had a lot of jump in practice.”
Bickell, who played on the second line in Colorado on Friday, said the trio is comfortable together.
"We know what everybody brings to the line and we feed off each other, with (Stalberg’s) speed and (Shaw’s) grit. He’s willing to do anything to get the puck,” Bickell said. “We know where everyone is, so it helps. We don’t need to make fancy plays. We just make plays that compliment us.”
“When you’re playing with someone that much, you can read where they’re going to be and expect them to be there,” he said. “You trust they’ll be where they should be, and it’s worked out pretty well for us.”
For Hayes, it’s a second opportunity to make his mark with the Blackhawks. The 23-year-old played 31 games with the Blackhawks last season, tallying five goals and four assists. The 6-foot-6, 221-pound Hayes is back now, largely due to the numbers he’s put up in Rockford. Hayes is tied for a team high with 22 goals for the IceHogs; he also has 17 assists. While he’s played center a lot in Rockford this season, Hayes will be back at wing for the Blackhawks.
And starting with guys like Bolland and Kane doesn’t hurt.
“I’ll just stick to my game, be big, use my speed and (let him) do all the puck work,” Hayes said of Kane. “He’s a magician with it, so I’ll just read off him. I’ll just go straight to the net and try to get open for him.”
Line combinations, for the most part, were restored on Wednesday. The Blackhawks hope their winning ways return with them.
“The lines more familiar than the last couple of games,” Quenneville said. “Hopefully, we can recapture the enthusiasm we had when we started.”
The Blackhawks placed forward Rostislav Olesz on waivers today, according to TSN.ca. If Olesz clears, he will be assigned to the IceHogs. Defenseman Steve Montador, who was placed on waivers on Monday, cleared them and was assigned to Rockford on Tuesday.