Hawk Talk: For fourth line, it's always a fight

Hawk Talk: For fourth line, it's always a fight

Monday, May 31, 2010
12:21 AM
By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO From coast to coast, Tomas Kopeckys jump from healthy scratch to arguably the First Star of the opening game of the Stanley Cup Finals was billed as the ultimate tale of redemption.

Thats not far off, to be sure. But all through this second season, the Chicago Blackhawks rotating corps of fourth-liners has been making key contributions, and Kopeckys gorgeous assist and game-winning goal on Saturday night may have been the very best.

In the quarters, Bryan Bickell was ticketed from the AHL Rockford IceHogs almost immediately onto the first line, alongside Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Then, when the Blackhawks were lacking punch and in jeopardy of a first-round upset, Adam Burish stepped in to add fire and feist to the proceedings. Ben Eager formed a Sunshine Boys pair with Burish for awhile, chiding the opposition together from the bench and dropping more than one stereophonic snow shower on opposing goalies. Troy Brouwer, who had fallen out the lineup completely against the Nashville Predators, made a stirring return to spur the Blackhawks against the Vancouver Canucksand oh, you might also recall his two goals on Saturday vs. the Flyers. And Colin Fraser, who has seen action in just three playoff games in 2010, was a key cog in the fourth line when that grouping strung together a streak of high-scoring games that lifted the Blackhawks out of their late-season malaise.

Theres no doubt that all six of the teams final forwards are itching to play. But the waiting game can be agonizing.

You have to stay patient, said Kopecky, last nights hero. You dont want to worry about whether youre playing. Thats dangerous. You just have to do what it takes to keep playing once youre in.

Color Coach Q impressed, and unlikely to be sitting Kopy for the rest of the Finals.

Remarkable comeback, Quenneville said. Great play, good patience on the winning goal nice return to the lineup.

Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg has sat his share of times in his young career, though never this season. But a question about healthy scratches immediately raises his ire.

Sometimes guys get a little ticked off and want to get out there, Versteeg said. We all want to be out there, but theres only so much room. You just have to do your best and make the most of your opportunities.

It sounds as if thats just what Kopecky did. If and when the injured Andrew Laddwho Kopy replaced on the third line on Saturday and in fact was in the starting lineup, along with Dave Bolland and Versteegreturns, its a safe bet that Quenneville will find room for the gangly grinder.

That line was very dangerous, Quenneville said of the six-point, plus-seven effort from the three skaters. Very effective. Bolly and Steeger really complimented Kopy. That line throughout the playoffs with Laddy and now Kopy knows how to play defensively and their production offensively seems to be timely as far as their goals.

None came timelier than Kopeckys, who upon his return got the ultimate validation of a game-winning goal to send 22,132 UC crazies home happy. You might think it was simple absence from scoring that forced Kopys odd bongo-on-the-boards goal celebration, but it wasnt so.

I got stuck in the ice after scoring, Kopecky said. I was banging the glass and a woman was slapping it, too. So I just kept banging back.

Kopecky has banged his way back into the lineup, in a big way. And if he or another fourth-liner falters, there are three eager forwards now sitting who will be angling for the call.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

First goal with Blackhawks 'a release' for Tomas Jurco

First goal with Blackhawks 'a release' for Tomas Jurco

Tomas Jurco's reaction to his first goal on Monday night was as much celebration as a little bit of relief. The forward, acquired by the Blackhawks about a month ago, had had a few great scoring chances in recent games but just couldn't capitalize.

Finally, he got that first of the season against Tampa Bay.

"It's kind of a release, you know?" Jurco said on Wednesday. "I've had a lot of good chances and it would just never go in for some reason. Obviously I'm very happy that it went in and hopefully this is the start of, I would say, more luck for me."

Looking for consistency in his own game as well as a consistent spot in the lineup, Jurco was looking for a boost of confidence. Getting that first goal could be part of it, as a bit of a weight disappears with that zero in the goal column. 

"That's a hurdle that can be in the back of your mind a lot and all of a sudden it could be a nice release," coach Joel Quenneville said of that first goal. "He's progressing in our team game, technically. Whether it's his pace of play or going to the right areas quickly, we're looking for progression. We saw it [Monday] night and I think he'll continue to get better off that. But certainly that should help him get confidence as we go along here."

[Buy Blackhawks tickets right here]

Jurco's been around the net, something the Blackhawks always encourage, for most of those scoring opportunities. Perhaps some of that puck luck wasn't quite there. But Jurco is gaining confidence in recent games, and getting that goal could boost it that much more.

"I've always said, especially in my case, scoring helps that confidence come easier. It brings that fun to the game," Jonathan Toews said. "Maybe if you're not feeling it or not playing with high energy, at a certain point in a game when you score, for some reason you get that jolt, you get that jump. For [Jurco], he's been playing well when he's been in, and no doubt that scoring a goal like that can help boost confidence and help him find his game, which we know he has and will continue to show."

The scoring hurdle has been cleared and Jurco is gaining confidence. Will he carve out a consistent spot in the lineup? Quenneville has some options through the bottom six. That, coupled with the Blackhawks playing inconsistent hockey lately and missing that four-line rotation, Jurco's been one of several who have been in and out of the lineup. But Quenneville said on Wednesday, "I don't see making constant changes once the [playoffs] begin." If Jurco keeps getting chances and capitalizing on a few, and if he ends up as part of a rotation that's successful again, he could stick.

Jurco waited a little bit for that first goal. He hopes it's just the start.

"You know eventually it's going to go in but it was just frustrating. Another game and another and another with good chances and it just wouldn't go in. So it's a big release," Jurco said. "Hopefully I'll keep going, keep producing."

Fast Break Morning Update: Hawks smash Penguins; Are Cubs better than last year?

Fast Break Morning Update: Hawks smash Penguins; Are Cubs better than last year?

Big first period paces Blackhawks over Penguins

On paper, have Cubs put together a better roster than last year's World Series team?

Why the Bears finally feel like they're in striking distance of a winning team

Tyler Saladino, Jose Abreu homer as White Sox tie Padres in Arizona finale

Bastian Schweinsteiger says he is ready for new challenge with the Fire

NBA Buzz: Nikola Mirotic making Bulls' offseason decision tougher

Cubs finalize Opening Day 25-man roster

Bears Chairman George McCaskey sets 2017 demands for Ryan Pace, John Fox

Comfy Kero: Quick hits from Blackhawks-Penguins

White Sox pitching staff nearly complete with prospect Zack Burdi headed to Triple-A