Coach Joel Quenneville’s Line Blender and a Pair of Returns

The Chicago Blackhawks have been struggling on the road (1-5-0) this season, having lost the last five away from the United Center. The fans are beginning to panic. However, the team is about to get a much needed boost, as they welcome back two veteran blue liners, Duncan Keith and Michal Rozsival for Saturday nights match-up against the St. Louis Blues.  Ryan Garbutt is also likely to return after a couple of days off with an illness.

Triumphant Returns

On October 20th, Duncan Keith underwent surgery to repair a meniscus tear;  His expected return fell around the tail end of the circus trip.  However, Keith being part cyborg, or superhuman is indeed going to return on Saturday night ahead of schedule to face the Blues.  His presence should stabilize the young defense, and hopefully help to spark the offense for some of the other lines that have faltered in his absence. Keith’s return could not come at a better time. There is little doubt that the team, the coaching staff, the front office and the fans are elated over this early return. Duncan Keith is easily the undisputed lynch pin in the Blackhawks’ machine. It will run without him, but it runs on fumes awaiting his return.

As many of you may recall, Michal Rozsival went down early in the play-offs in game four versus the Minnesota Wild, with one of the more gruesome injuries in recent memory (though this season has had it’s fair share of contributions). Months have passed, as he has diligently rehabbed the ankle, and tomorrow night he will get to test it out against division rival, St. Louis. A game that many would call a must win, if for no other reason than momentum, as they prepare for the upcoming circus trip.


Reshuffle the Deck

The two veterans will displace Viktor Svedberg and Erik Gustafsson. The pair played quite well in place of the vets, but unfortunately, their two way status made them the likely candidates for a return to the Rockford IceHogs. As much as they would have enjoyed staying with the team in Chicago, the cap has once again dictated the roster moves.  Though, it is not necessarily a bad move, as both will continue to log minutes until their return to the Blackhawks, whenever that may be.

David Rundblad cannot be dropped back without passing waivers, and the Hawks simply don’t want to expose him, as his cap hit and potential (which has yet to be realized) would most certainly make him a target for teams in need of defensive depth. Waivers would get the Hawks nothing in return, it is far more likely that Stan Bowman has other plans for him.

It is known that Rundblad has a lot of work to do, and he is far from NHL ready, at least where most of the contending teams are concerned. He has simply been a necessity for the Hawks since the departure of Nick Leddy, and last seasons injuries to Trevor van Riemsdyk.  However, with TVR back in the line-up, and a number of young defensemen looking ready to steal his roster spot, Rundblad’s position is starting to become considerably less secure.

Both Svedberg and Gustafsson are on coach Joel Quenneville’s radar and clearly slot ahead of Rundblad, so it would seem likely that he could be on the move at some point in the very near future, in spite of his recent re-signing over the summer.  He has some offensive upside, but he just isn’t coming along fast enough for a team that is looking to contend.  He is likely to draw some interest, but it is anyone’s guess what kind of return the Hawks will get for him.  Perhaps a late pick, or a depth player? Anything would be better than dropping him on waivers.

Dano Wins the Lottery

Marko Dano appears to be the latest (and hopefully last) in a long line of auditions for the top line.  He will slot in beside his fellow countryman, Marian Hossa and the captain, Jonathan Toews.  The trio have had good chemistry in the past, but have yet to play together since the regular season started.

While the outcome of Thursday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils left a lot to be desired, one thing that stood out was Dano’s play.  He seemed to be aggressive on the puck,  a mainstay in front of the net, and had a number of good looks.  It was enough to earn him a chance from coach Q.

Dano has spent most of his time since being called up on the third line with a couple of different linemates, though consistently with Tanner Kero at  center. He had a goal, and an assist in his first three outings, but has been kept off the stat sheet over the last two. Though not for a lack of effort in the game against the Devils.  The hope is that he will spark the offense for the struggling duo of Hossa and Toews (and vice versa) and help spread out the scoring, which the second line has dominated since the season began.

As expected, the line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov, and Patrick Kane will stay intact, as everything they touch turns to goals.

The Line Blender is on Overdrive

When things aren’t working, Q is never afraid to shake things up.  It would appear that is exactly what he plans to do against St. Louis on Saturday night. Marcus Kruger and Andrew Shaw moved up to the third line with Teuvo Teravainen in Friday’s skate, and Ryan Garbutt was slotted next to Tanner Kero and Brandon Mashinter.  Andrew Desjardins was the odd man out, though that could change come game time, or perhaps it is another one of Q’s not so subtle ‘get it together’ messages that can only be learned in the press box.

Corey Crawford will get the start in net, with Scott Darling likely to get the nod at home on Sunday against the Calgary Flames.

The Circus trip will be the true measuring stick to see where this team stands, but having Keith back should give the team a boost. A win in St. Louis could turn the momentum in favor of the Blackhawks, as they look to claw their way back into the play-off race.  It may seem like a daunting task, but it is one that they have tackled before and there is still a lot of season left to get there.