With their playoff lives on the line on Thursday night, the Chicago Blackhawks are making some drastic changes to their lineup as they attempt to stave off elimination at the hands of the St. Louis Blues.
The team’s top line will have an entirely new look, as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will be paired together to start the game in St. Louis. The so-called “nuclear option” line, used by Joel Quenneville when the Hawks are facing elimination, will also feature Richard Panik on the left wing as the team tries to get their two best players out of their current offensive funk.
The second line will sport a different look after losing Kane, with Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov being joined by Teuvo Teravainen as the right winger. Andrew Desjardins will jump in to replace Teravainen at the center position on the fourth line, with Brandon Mashinter and Dale Weise serving as wingers.
Finally, the third line will be entirely new, with Marcus Kruger centering veteran wingers Marian Hossa and Andrew Ladd.
The changes, which come as the Blackhawks attempt to find a new formula for success after some rough offensive performances, also will ideally mask the absence of Andrew Shaw, who was suspended for Game 5 by the NHL. Shaw would likely have taken Mashinter’s place in the lineup had he been available, but instead he’ll be forced to watch from the press box as his teammates attempt to keep their Stanley Cup defense going.
Meanwhile, the team’s defense will also see a change, as David Rundblad will slot into the lineup for Game 5. Quenneville had hinted strongly that Rundblad would play in Game 4, but instead he opted to swap in Erik Gustafsson for Viktor Svedberg. It would appear that Michal Rozsival will make way for Rundblad on Thursday night, but nothing will be made official until the team announces scratches just before puck drop at 8:30 p.m.