“It was fun while it lasted.”
The Hawks got back to work on Monday after returning from the West Coast late in the afternoon on Sunday. A short practice saw Kane skating with Kris Versteeg and Dustin Byfuglien, with Patrick Sharp moving up with Toews and Hossa.
“It gives us one more line which is very high end, and maybe they get a little bit of a looser matchup or lesser coverage type of thing, but in the last two [games] we didn’t have anything to show five on five,” coach Joel Quenneville explained after practice. “I think it’s more about that.”
Quenneville actually broke up the lines in the third period on Saturday in Los Angeles. The Hawks were on the verge of going two games without a goal. As it is, they’ve gone two contests without a five-on-five tally, so it came as no surprise to the players.
“You can kind of sense it coming I think, especially zero goals in five periods, probably something was going to change,” Kane said.
“It’s no big deal,” Toews continued. “It’s how it is sometimes. Halfway through a game, change up the lines to spark some energy and some offense.”
Counterintuitively, Toews said sometimes you think less when a new player joins a line mid-game and, instead, you just react to situations more. Either way, the change means Kane moves back to right wing, which takes the sting away of losing Toews and Hossa as linemates.
“To be honest with you, it’s pretty nice playing right wing,” Kane said. “I went back there in the third period [in L.A.] and felt pretty comfortable there.”
Kane didn’t say it outright, but his inference was he’d rather play right wing, even if it means being taken off that line. The move also means Versteeg has all the responsibilities of a centerman once again. Previously, he had some help from Sharp with those responsibilities. Now, all that falls back to Versteeg. The second line center has been a hot topic for debate since Dave Bolland went down and Versteeg knows it. He thinks it shouldn’t be an issue.
“I’m not worried about it at all,” Versteeg said. “I think I can just get better at it with time. I haven’t played it really at all and now you go to a new position, so with time I’ll get better at it. I don’t think anyone has anything to worry about.”
One of the Hawks major strengths is winning faceoffs. When Sharp was on the line with Versteeg, he was the man in the middle. Now it will solely be Versteeg. He has a winning percentage of 33 percent for the season. Again, he’s not worried.
“I think it’s about everything,” Versteeg said. “Technique, heart, desire and going in there and just getting that puck. It’s something I’m learning how to do on a consistent basis and I think I’ll be fine.”
Quenneville doesn’t seem too concerned either. He still contends over the course of time, in terms of that position, they will visit “all the scenarios,” but for now Versteeg continues to get the tryout.
The Hawks play Colmubus for the first time this season on Tuesday. Joel Quenneville said he’s well aware of the danger in terms of playing the first game back from a long road trip, especially one from the West Coast. The Hawks probably could have used one more day between games but Quenneville said he’ll be sure to stress “the positives” as they get ready.
Quenneville is now 0-2 in attempts at his 500th career win. John Madden told me on the trip, jokingly, he wasn’t sure if the “kids” on the team even knew about the milestone. Kane said he found out when he looked up at the video screen in Anaheim and saw he was on 499. No celebration by the players has been planned. At least not yet.
Dustin Byfuglien knows the beginning of December begins the last push to impress the U.S Olympic brass. Byfuglien said he thought he played “OK” on the trip, but wouldn’t mind picking it up some. As for the line changes, he said, “I guess they want to see how different people react to different people with Hossa back. Hopefully it goes OK.”