Blackhawks' third-line players ask more of themselves

  • Article by: SHANNON RYAN , Chicago Tribune
  • Updated: June 11, 2013 - 12:22 AM

Group was productive for Blackhawks in regular season, but its main impact in playoffs has been as defensive unit.

Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad tested Kings goalie Jonathan Quick during the Western Conference finals, but Saad has been held to zero goals in the playoffs heading into the Stanley Cup Finals.

Photo: CHARLES REX ARBOGAST, Associated Press

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– Brandon Saad didn’t hesitate when asked whether he needs more offensive production for the Blackhawks.

“You always want to produce,” he said after Monday’s practice at the United Center. “Especially being an offensive forward, that’s something you want to do. There’s still time.”

And there’s no time like the Stanley Cup Finals to find a spark.

Saad and his teammates on the third line have not been difference-makers. But the Hawks have not suffered much from their lack of scoring, getting goals from their top two lines and relying on the third line’s defensive assistance.

Through much of the regular season, the Hawks’ third-line players were a force. But in the playoffs, Saad and Viktor Stalberg have no goals, while Andrew Shaw has four but scored only one in the Western Conference finals against the Kings.

“You look at the teams that won the Cup, it’s those third and fourth lines playing defensively and chipping in offensively that wins Cups,” Shaw said. “It’s tough for those top two lines battling against each other. It’s those third and fourth lines that are going to help you win it.

“We have to play solid defensively. We can’t get scored on. We have to create momentum for the next shift coming.”

Coach Joel Quenneville has tinkered with the lines during the playoffs. Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp have skated with Michal Handzus, while Jonathan Toews is centering a new top combination with Marian Hossa and Bryan Bickell, who was promoted from the third line.

The success of the third line and the complementary skill sets of Bickell, Stalberg and Shaw were a major reason the Blackhawks started the season with a point in 24 consecutive games. Injuries broke up the line, and then Bickell’s breakout play necessitated more change. Saad has moved down from the first to second to third line this postseason.

“Especially the last game (against the Kings), I felt good, fresh out there off the jump,” Saad said. “Our line created chances. It’s something we’re looking to continue to do.

“We always want to produce and help out, especially in the playoffs (when) depth is huge. Doing our job defensively and working hard and producing chances is our No. 1 goal.”

Notes

• The Edmonton Oilers hired Dallas Eakins, who spent the past four seasons as coach of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, as the Oilers’ fourth coach in the past five seasons.

• The Nashville Predators signed defenseman Roman Josi to a seven-year, $28 million deal.

• Defenseman Sergei Gonchar, acquired in a trade last week, signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Dallas Stars. Gonchar is 39.

• Anaheim hired former Wild goalie Dwayne Roloson, 43, as a goaltending consultant.

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