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.

Blackhawks mailbag: Trade rumors abound

Blackhawks mailbag: Trade rumors abound

We interrupt this mid-January Blackhawks mailbag for an important announcement:

We are reaching that time of the season when trade rumors abound. There will be names galore, some that could make sense, some that will make absolutely no sense. Unfortunately, the latter will get as much attention in some circles as the former. That's the way this time of year goes.

One more note: On any name that's bandied about right now, check where his team is in the standings. If it's close to reaching a postseason spot, tap the brakes until things shake out a little more. I know, kids, I know: patience is not a virtue for many people, let alone Twitter. It'll all be OK.

With all that said onto the mailbag which, as you can imagine, asks a few trade-centric questions.

I agree on not trading the first-round draft pick. The Blackhawks have done that in the past but, with the draft in Chicago this summer, they’re going to want to hold onto that as well as a good amount of draft picks. This is their showcase.

I agreed with Jamal Mayers on CSN's latest podcast that the Blackhawks will likely look for someone with no term left on his contract past this season. I know there's been mention of guys with several years and big cap hits remaining on their deals, but how do the Blackhawks do that, especially with Artemi Panarin's new contract also kicking in next season? They'd have to get rid of a big contract and most of their big contracts also have no movement clauses.

Piggybacking off the last question, I do believe the Blackhawks have to do something to bolster their forward depth. They need someone who has some experience but won't cost them a lot (easy for me to say). Who that guy is right now, I'm not sure (don't worry, I'll be doing one of these in February, too). I wouldn't go for a Jarome Iginla or Shane Doan, as much as I like both of those guys. The Blackhawks don't have the forward depth to take a chance on a player who, while he may have been great several years ago, may not have much left now.

I've got three thoughts on this one.

First, the Dallas Stars fall into the above-mentioned category regarding potential playoffs. Despite a slew of injuries and inconsistent play, the Stars are 11th in the Western Conference but are just two points out of a playoff spot.

Second, Sharp has struggled with his health this season, as concussions have led to two lengthy absences.

Third, and this is my biggest question: Can you go home again? The Blackhawks have brought back Cup winners a few times, from Kris Versteeg to Andrew Ladd to Brian Campbell. Versteeg’s return here was up and down, Campbell's has been OK (there have been a few healthy scratches in there) and Ladd's didn’t work at all. Yes, six years passed from when Ladd left to when he returned; a lot changes over six years. But the bottom line is the attempt to rekindle line magic between Ladd and Jonathan Toews failed. Just wonder if this would go the same way.

We talked to Jonathan Toews on Tuesday morning and he said the back is not the issue. I don't believe it's another injury. The problem is, I don't know what the problem is. Toews has snapped out of these slumps before but this one seems to be lingering. I'm sure the confidence is shaken; how can it not be? We're all human, and even the best question themselves at times. I still think Toews will find the offense again but I don't think his current performances have anything to do with an injury.

Let's address Toews’ faceoff percentage first: it's fine. For the season, he's winning 57.5 percent of his faceoffs, good for sixth in the NHL. Outside of that awful Washington game, he's been around 50 percent or better in recent games.

Regarding Kruger, it's tough to say. The Blackhawks are looking for more balance and more scoring, and if those two categories don't improve the changes will continue regardless of who's in the lineup. Does coach Joel Quenneville go back to the third line that was working before Kruger was hurt (when he was with Dennis Rasmussen and Richard Panik)? He could. Just depends on how the Blackhawks are trending when Kruger does return.

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They could. Whether or not they do, I'm not sure yet. The Blackhawks did that with Brandon Saad back in the spring of 2012 once the Saginaw Spirit’s season ended. He played in two postseason games. My opinion, if the Blackhawks did it with anyone it would be DeBrincat. Even if he doesn't play, it’s a good chance to be around and practice with the team.

I know what you're referring to and all that article said was Vanek could be a possibility. As of Wednesday, the Red Wings are 14th in the Eastern Conference with 46 points. Sounds like they’re out of it, until you see they’re only four points from eighth place. As I said above, some of these teams are going to want to see where they are in a few weeks. As for cost, I wouldn't give up much past a pick, maybe two, but not high ones.

As of now, according to Cap Friendly, Hartman is eligible for the expansion draft. As far as the likelihood that Las Vegas takes him, it’s possible. It depends on what Vegas wants and needs. The Blackhawks, like everyone else, will lose one (and only one) player. Will Vegas want defensemen? Will they want a two-way player? But absolutely, Hartman would be available.

I'm guessing I've had a few of those and, to my recollection, I didn't dislike them. Honestly, I'm not as much of a wine aficionado as I've led the Twitter world to believe. Pinot noirs aren't my favorite (pretty light), love Malbecs, most French and Italian wines and you really have to talk me into a Chardonnay (I do like the ones that are out of steel drums now; just not a fan of the oak taste). Cheers!

Which current Blackhawks would Jeremy Roenick like to play with?

Which current Blackhawks would Jeremy Roenick like to play with?

Is there anyone who wouldn't want to play with Patrick Kane?

Jeremy Roenick joined In The Loop on Wednesday to discuss which current Blackhawks he would like to play with, and naturally, the reigning MVP topped his list.

"He would be my No. 1 choice," Roenick said. "There's no question about it."

But Roenick said there are two more Blackhawks he would like to lace them up with.

"I wouldn't mind playing with (Artemi) Panarin also," he said. "I would love to play with Jonathan Toews. I think I'd play well with all three of them."

Roenick also gave high praise to coach Joel Quenneville, saying he is one of the best coaches in all of sports. Roenick even compared Quenneville to "the Bill Belichick of hockey."

See what else the Roenick had to say in the video above.