Could Hawks look to end regular season with flashy Finnish?

2014-03-17T18:47:00Z 2014-03-21T20:36:21Z Could Hawks look to end regular season with flashy Finnish?George Castle Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
March 17, 2014 6:47 pm  • 

CHICAGO | Blackhawks brass likely spent an off-day Monday, in which no practice was held, debating whether to add top prospect Teuvo Teravainen to the roster for the stretch run.

Teravainen, just 19, finished his season Sunday when his Finnish League team, Jokerit, was knocked out of the playoffs. The Hawks’ first-round pick in 2012 could be looked at as a second-line center on a team that recently has placed teenagers Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane directly in the lineup.

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville did not rule out a kid giving a jolt to a roster he has had to tweak via major line changes amid a post-New Year’s malaise.

“I think it’s happened before, some kids coming out of juniors to help the organizations,” Quenneville said. “Young guys at this kind of year can give you a little bit of a jump as well.”

Teravainen is listed as a bantamweight at 5-foot-11, 169 pounds. But all reports said he has put on a few pounds this season.

“He got stronger,” said Quenneville. “I think better defensively. There seemed to be some (better on-ice) awareness.

“I watched some of those world championship games. He was one of the top guys. He seemed to have the puck a lot. His recognition offensively is really high-end. I think improvement in his strength probably is another area that happened over the course of the year.”

Line changes part of Hawks landscape: Quenneville always has been an active tinkerer with lines, including during games. His players have learned to take it in stride.

Sunday’s victory against the Red Wings represented his biggest upheaval of the season with Patrick Sharp dropped to the third line. Bryan Bickell was moved up to the second line. Fourth-line winger Ben Smith found himself playing second-line center in the second period. Smith scored the go-ahead goal.

“I’ve played with pretty much everyone on the team,” said Kris Versteeg, who saw service on the first line with Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews. “You just try to go out there and bring energy and do what you do best with anyone. You try to create chemistry.”

Despite his in-game experimenting, Quenneville usually gives fair warning of line changes, allowing the new mix of players at least one practice to get acclimated.

“You want to know what it’s going to be like in the trenches with your linemates,” said Versteeg, “and see where they’re going to be, what their tendencies are again, what their strengths are. Going through practice always helps."

Scoring dip not unexpected: The Hawks hot scoring pace before New Year's has slackened. In eight of the 11 games prior to Sunday, the Hawks scored two or fewer goals.

“Everybody expected us to score five each game,” said winger Marian Hossa, whose return from a March 1 upper-body injury Sunday energized the Hawks. “But it’s the best league in the world. But we’re going to face, especially toward the end of the season, great defensive teams.

“Even our team is going to have a tough time — we’re going to have to grind for the pucks. Not every night we’re not going to score that many goals. So we have to find a way to maybe win 1-0, 2-1.”

Looking up for Bickell: Bickell had slumped much of the season with his playing time often cut. But Quenneville has spotted light at the end of the tunnel.

“I see a trend,” he said. “The last three or four games, Bick’s been much better. He’s got some physicality to his game. When he elevates his game to a different level, he really influences (the team positively).”

 

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