Blackhawks News

Dano Could Cure Chicago Blackhawks First-Line Woes

By Matt Barbato

The left wing on the Chicago Blackhawks’ first line has been a revolving door, a turnstile or anything else that rotates constantly.

The Blackhawks have two solidified pieces on their first line: Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa are both stars who are playing at an extremely high level in both facets of the game. But head coach Joel Quenneville has relied on a wheel of wingers to find the third guy to mesh with his talented duo.

Andrew Shaw was given the most-recent opportunity to play on the first line. Shaw did not record a point and was a minus-1 in Chicago’s 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night, despite playing 21 shifts and garnering 18 minutes of ice time.

Others have tried to fill the void as well. Teuvo Teravainen, Ryan Garbutt, Bryan Bickell and others have rode the Blackhawks’ first-line ride. None of them have added that extra dimension.

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But it appears Quenneville is — as he should do — looking at a recent call-up as Chicago’s solution on the first-line left wing: Marko Dano.

Dano came along in the Brandon Saad deal and was sent down to the Rockford IceHogs for the beginning of the 2015-16 season. That move shocked many fans, as Dano was the player who had the most upside coming back in the Saad deal. The good news is Dano’s stint in Rockford didn’t last long.

Dano was brought back to the professional team at the beginning of November. He has played in five games primarily on the depth lines and has scored one goal. Dano has gotten around 10 minutes of ice time each night and has averaged 14 shifts a game.

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This stat is even more interesting: Dano has taken just three shots in his five games with the Blackhawks, all of which came in one game against the St. Louis Blues, which happened to be the game in which he scored his lone goal.

It’s time for the Quenneville to trust a youngster on his top line. Dano has enticing talent and could break free playing alongside Toews and Hossa, who opponents are forced to gameplan for.

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The Blackhawks are still seeking an identity after an 8-7-1 start to their third title defense in six years. Chicago should focus on infusing a youth movement, with players like Dano and Teravainen leading the way in the effort. The Blackhawks aren’t a Stanley Cup contender the way they are currently playing, but getting a spark and some production from a player like Dano could ignite the team.

Sometimes, youth is good.