CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville for once in the Western Conference finals didn't have to answers questions about whether he was overplaying his top four defensemen Thursday.
Instead, the questions were directed at his lineup decisions for Game 3 against the Anaheim Ducks. Quenneville uncharacteristically changed his lineup after a win and took out forwards Antoine Vermette and Teuvo Teravainen and inserted Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom.
The moves didn't get the desired effect. Versteeg had one shot on goal and Nordstrom was on the ice for the Ducks' lone 5-on-5 goal. The lineup changes weren't entirely responsible for the Blackhawks' 2-1 loss in Game 3 -- generating one shot on goal in 9:18 of power-play time was a major issue, too -- but they played a part in it as the Blackhawks went down 2-1 in the series.
Quenneville obviously didn't see it that way. He thought he was justified in taking out Vermette, whom the Blackhawks acquired at the trade deadline for a first-round pick and a prospect, and Teravainen, the organization's brightest young offensive talent, and bringing in two fresh players who didn't take part in Tuesday's triple-overtime road game.
"We just wanted to get some fresh legs in there," Quenneville said. "We felt that [Versteeg] had never played over a long stretch in the last series. We wanted to get him back in there. You know, tough game the other day, travel. We wanted to bring some new guys in.
"We could have changed our lineup after the first game, after we lost the first game. Those guys hadn't played. We got them back together, got them some ice. That's what we're looking at."
Quenneville also didn't believe the moves negatively impacted the game. He thought the opposite, especially early.
"I thought we had a good start with that," Quenneville said. "We had a good first period."
The problem was the Blackhawks weren't able to sustain that. Where they especially felt the lineup changes over the course of the game was in the four-line rotation. Quenneville went away from playing his fourth line of Andrew Desjardins, Marcus Kruger and Nordstrom late in the game. Desjardins played four shifts and 2:36 in the third period. Kruger played three shifts and 2:10. Nordstrom played one shift and 51 seconds.
In Game 2, the Blackhawks' fourth line, which was then made up of Desjardins, Kruger and Andrew Shaw, factored into the triple-overtime win. Quenneville consistently put the line on the ice, and it held the Ducks' top line mostly in check. The Hawks' line produced the winning goal, and Shaw also had a team-high seven shots on net.
Quenneville praised that line after Game 2, but he also didn't think the fourth line played poorly in Game 3.
"They were fine," Quenneville said. "You get behind, it's a different game. I think they were playing fine till we got behind."
While Blackhawks' fans criticized Quenneville for his changes on social media Thursday, Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp voiced his support for Quenneville.
"It happens a lot," Sharp said of the lineup changes. "We're used to it. We trust him behind the bench to mix and match players however he feels. We've got a deep team. We've got a number of guys that can step in and play. It's not an excuse at all."
The question going forward for Quenneville will be what he does with his lineup in Game 4. He, of course, wasn't divulging anything Thursday.
"We're looking at everything," Quenneville said. "We'll consider all our options."