After what can only be described as a less than stellar homecoming on Tuesday, the Chicago Blackhawks will be sporting a way different look on offense when the New York Islanders come to town Friday night. The Patrick Kane at center experiment, largely heralded as a success in the early portion of the season, will come to an end, as the 23-year old will be moved back to his native position of right wing. Marcus Kruger will also be moved up to second line center as the Hawks try to revive an offense that has struggled with inconsistency in recent weeks.
Kane will be paired up with a familiar face Friday, as he will skate alongside captain Jonathan Toews and winger Viktor Stalberg. The new look top line will be joined by a second line featuring Kruger in the middle and Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp skating alongside him. Dave Bolland, who was held out of practice on Thursday, will likely center the third line, with Michael Frolik and Bryan Bickell on the wings. On the fourth line, Jamal Mayers will hold down the fort and center with Daniel Carcillo and Andrew Brunette alongside.
Ever since the Hawks dismantled Vancouver 5-1 to kick off their circus road trip, their offense has been putrid, to say the least. They have scored 13 goals in those six games, and if you toss out the six goals they scored against Anaheim in their Black Friday Showdown, they scored a combined seven goals in those five games. They were shutout by San Jose, and only managed one goal against Phoenix, which was the onus for the most recent changes to the lineup.
Ideally, Joel Quenneville has to be hoping that reuniting Toews and Kane full time is going to provide some spark at the top of the lineup, especially with Kane. Toews is currently leading the team with 13 goals and 25 points total, but Kane has been struggling to find the form that he had at the beginning of the season. During the aforementioned six game offensive drought, Kane managed three assists but has been finding it difficult to get involved in other ways. He was held shotless against Los Angeles, and he had a combined nine shots in the other five games. Needless to say, the Hawks will need him to up his scoring output, and putting him with a skilled passer in Toews could do the trick.
Another area that the Hawks need to improve in is their ability to control the area in front of the net. They may only be allowing limited shots on goal, but the shots that have been getting through are quality scoring chances, and Corey Crawford isn’t going to be able to stop shots like that on a regular basis. The Hawks’ defense has been dealing with some injuries, with both Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook missing time, but the play of the forwards in that area is important as well, so it’s definitely a team issue that needs to be addressed.
A struggling team like the Islanders is one that the Blackhawks should beat, but the more important thing to look for in Friday’s contest will be the play of the new offensive line combinations and the ability to prevent the Isles from getting quality scoring chances.
Getting these things in working order before Saturday’s showdown with red hot St. Louis will be crucial, so Friday night will give fans a great look at what they can expect from the team as a home-heavy December slate gets started.Powered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks