Chicago Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin will miss tonight’s game against the Dallas Stars with an illness, one that coach Joel Quenneville described as similar to one that affected Jonathan Toews before the All-Star break.
This is the second straight missed game for Panarin, and the first one did not bode well for the Blackhawks’ offense. Outside of a disallowed goal from Brandon Mashinter in the first period, the Blackhawks couldn’t dent the scoresheet as they fell to the San Jose Sharks 2-0 on Tuesday. The second line that has been so potent this season was silenced without Panarin, as Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane juggled between Teuvo Teravainen, Richard Panik and Andrew Desjardins as their linemate for 60 minutes against San Jose. The rest of the offense, outside of the fourth line (more on that later) seemed uncomfortable as a result, though its showing against the Sharks certainly wasn’t poor.
So what does this mean for tonight? According to CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers, Panik will start on the second line with Anisimov and Kane, with Teuvo re-assuming his right wing position on the third line with Desjardins and Phillip Danault. If the Blackhawks’ offense gets off to a roaring start against the Stars, taking advantage of their weak goaltending and iffy defense as it did in Saturday’s win, Coach Q probably won’t need to change much from his morning skate lines.
But what if the Blackhawks again struggle on offense? What will the Q line blender turn up?
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For stretches Tuesday, Toews and Kane skated alongside one another with any third player who Q felt was ready for a turn on their wing. That probably won’t happen again tonight unless the Blackhawks are held scoreless into the third period once more, but Q could always change up more than who is on second line’s left side before that point. Someone like Panik or Teuvo could jump up to the top-line left wing, letting Andrew Shaw grind it out on the third line (putting him alongside Anisimov and Kane seems like it’d have a negative impact on the latter two players).
Could Jiri Sekac even get a go on a higher line? He had a very strong game on the fourth line Tuesday, contributing four of the Blackhawks’ 33 shots, tying him with Teuvo for second on the team (behind only Marian Hossa‘s five). Really, the only spot Sekac could jump to would be third-line right wing, and that’d probably only happen if Teuvo was bumped to first- or second-line left wing. Unless Q would like to move Sekac to a left wing, Sekac will have to continue grinding it out with Mashinter and Dennis Rasmussen on the fourth line. Considering that almost paid dividends a few times Tuesday, you won’t find many Blackhawks fans complaining.
Ultimately, we shouldn’t be surprised to see some in-game line juggling tonight if the Blackhawks don’t get off to a fast start. I think Teuvo could move up to first-line left wing at some point tonight, bumping Shaw to the third line. Panik could also get a shot at top-line left wing, which was a talking point when he was initially brought to Chicago. That would, hopefully, put Teuvo on the second-line left wing and bump Shaw down to the third line.
But, again, if the Blackhawks get off to a strong start tonight, we shouldn’t expect any in-game changes to the forward units.