The Chicago Blackhawks hit the ice at the United Center on Wednesday for their first practice since beating the Edmonton Oilers 5-4 on Sunday night, and their lines were nearly identical to what they have been running over the past seven games, with one exception:
Jeremy Morin, who has sat out the Hawks’ last three games as a healthy scratch, was skating again with Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw on the team’s third line. Sheldon Brookbank had been filling in at the winger spot, albeit not in a full-time capacity. Instead, guys like Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa were filling in on that line, and while results have been mixed with that experiment, present circumstances are seemingly ending it for the time being.
That’s because the Blackhawks won’t be able to afford to have first and second liners double-shifting for third line minutes as their schedule condenses even further than usual in future weeks.
They will be playing 10 times over 17 days to finish out the month of November, with their next two day break not coming until December 1st and 2nd. Included in that stretch is their seven game circus trip, where they will have a good mix of games against top teams and bottom-dwellers.
To their credit, Shaw and Bickell have dealt well without a consistent linemate. Over the three games that Brookbank dressed as a winger, Shaw had a goal and an assist, but didn’t have a shot on goal in the first two games of the experiment. Bickell had six shots on goal over the three games, and finally scored one against the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday.
All of that being said, the duo (and really the lineup as a whole) is much better off having Morin on their wing on a consistent basis than in having Brookbank out there. He only played an average of seven minutes a game during his time as a winger, and he didn’t have a single shot on goal in that time. That kind of ineffectiveness puts more pressure on Bickell and Shaw against defenses, and that shouldn’t be the case for two players who are so critical to the success of the Hawks’ bottom six.
Putting Morin back in that spot is a much smarter idea than continuing to put Brookbank in the lineup as a place holder, and it’s honestly a decision that Quenneville should have made sooner. The offense takes a hit when a guy like Brookbank is out on the ice, and moving him back to his usual defenseman spot alongside Nick Leddy will be much better for the Hawks moving forward.