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Chicago Blackhawks: Top Line May Be Decided

By Matt Barbato
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The preseason has just gotten underway, but Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville may have his top line already determined. Quenneville hinted Sunday that he was impressed by what Marko Dano, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa did together on the first line through the first three days of camp.

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“I know that’s the one line that I liked,” Quenneville told the media on Sunday. “I liked Dano, seemed to be very effective and productive with Hoss and Johnny.”

Dano, 20, flourished in Chicago’s three days at camp. He scored five goals and seemed to gel pretty well with the two veterans alongside him. Dano was acquired in the Brandon Saad trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He scored eight goals with 13 assists in 35 games with the Blue Jackets in 2014-15. This will be his first full season in the NHL.

Lost in all the hysteria over the Patrick Kane investigation is that Dano and Artemi Panarin had a great camp at the University of Notre Dame. Panarin, 23, could see a spot on the top six this season. He primarily played with Teuvo Teravainen and Viktor Tikhonov during camp.

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With Dano on the first line, that likely means the second line could consist of Patrick Kane (for now), Artem Anisimov and Bryan Bickell. Things could change if Kane is charged with a crime, but for now he is going to keep his usual role on the second line. Anisimov is another newcomer who should be one of the more talented centers Kane has skated with. Bickell is a question mark. The Blackhawks tried to trade him throughout the offseason, but couldn’t get anyone to bite. Bickell’s 28 points last season doesn’t merit his $4 million annual salary.

Teravainen, Panarin and Tikhonov could make up Chicago’s third line. Teravainen is 21-years-old, Panarin is 23 and Tikhonov is 27. The Blackhawks signed the latter him to a 1-year deal in July. Tikhonov was Arizona’s first-round pick in 2008, but has played the last four seasons in the KHL.

There are quite a few candidates for Chicago’s fourth line, but the most likely group appears to be Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw and Andrew Desjardins. This line was productive during Chicago’s Stanley Cup run and was particularly essential during the Stanley Cup Final.

Ryan Garbutt figures to be a lock to make the roster, but probably won’t start often. Prospects Ryan Hartman, Garret Ross, Jeremy Morin and Corey Tropp figure to be the other players in the mix for the final roster spot, assuming Chicago keeps seven defensemen on its 23-man roster.

There will be plenty of answers to come as preseason begins Tuesday.

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