There will be a few interesting dynamics in play when the Chicago Blackhawks come off the All-Star break tonight in a road tilt against the Colorado Avalanche. For Patrick Roy‘s team, there will be no Semyon Varlamov in net, as he deals with a domestic violence civil suit filed by his ex-girlfriend. Varlamov has, in his career, been very solid against Chicago, so that’s a break for the Blackhawks.
For the men in the Indian Head, they’ll insert Viktor Svedberg on the blue line as Michal Rozsival deals with a lower-body injury. They’ll also play without captain Jonathan Toews, who was suspended for a game by the NHL as a result of missing the All-Star Game with an illness.
That last point has led to the insertion of Teuvo Teravainen at the top-line center slot. Teuvo has played a majority of this season on a bottom-six wing, with the 21-year-old taking just 59 faceoffs in 49 games this season. He’ll line up between Andrew Shaw and Marian Hossa on the road, a tough assignment to be sure.
This is obviously a temporary move, as Toews will almost definitely return Thursday in Arizona, unless his illness keeps him from that game. But what does it mean for tonight and moving forward?
The Avs are literally a touch better than the Blackhawks at the dot this season — 49.4 percent success rate to 49.3 — but with Toews sidelined, the Blackhawks are in rough shape from a faceoff standpoint. Although Teuvo has won just a third of his limited draws this season, he’s going to need to get low and dig in to win some draws tonight. It remains to be seen how Joel Quenneville will utilize this first line without Toews, but he’s going to try to get faceoff victories anywhere he can.
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On the offensive end, Teuvo should not be passing up many, if any, shooting opportunities. Teuvo giving the puck away to Shaw when Teuvo himself has a good scoring chance just screams silly, and Hossa has gone through documented struggles producing on offense this season. Aggression from Teuvo on the offensive side would bode well for him replacing Toews. This also applies to backchecking when leaving the zone.
As for the other side of the ice, he’ll need to get back toward Corey Crawford quickly on each shift, as that is Toews’ role with a still capable but somewhat slower Hossa and an occasionally lost Shaw, not to mention potential concerns on the blue line, depending on which pairing is iced. Other than that, Teuvo should stick with what helped make his playoff line with Antoine Vermette a success last season, and things should be relatively stable.
Again, a lot of this depends on what Roy decides to throw at the Shaw-Teuvo-Hossa line, but Teuvo has a solid-sized task facing him tonight.
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As far as the future, I can’t imagine Teuvo moving back to center full time unless he has an insanely successful outing tonight. With Toews locked in at 1C and Artem Anisimov pretty solidly entrenched at 2C, that just leaves the bottom-six center spots. I think Q has been happy with what’s he’s gotten out of Phillip Danault and Dennis Rasmussen at 3C and 4C, respectively, and I also think he prefers utilizing Teuvo on a wing for a multitude of reasons. Things could change with injuries and the like, but tonight’s cameo at center for Teuvo is probably just that.
How do you think Teuvo will fare as first-line center against Colorado? Let us know in the comments.