Blackhawks lineup changes surprise, raise questions after Game 3


Coach Joel Quenneville hinted that there would be changes on Thursday night, giving his patented, “we’ll see” when asked about the lineup.

He wasn’t kidding, and the changes were surprising: Antoine Vermette and Teuvo Teravainen were out and Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom were in for Game 3 against the Anaheim Ducks. The game’s outcome wasn’t decided by the changes – please see that awful power play – but they certainly left one wondering why they were made.

Quenneville said he was looking for “fresh legs” when he put in Versteeg and Nordstrom, neither of whom had played since the first round against the Nashville Predators. It was an interesting turn of events following Game 2, a triple-overtime victory in Anaheim, given Quenneville rarely makes changes following a triumph. But there it was nonetheless.

“Steeger didn’t play for a long stretch and we wanted to get him back in there,” Quenneville said. “It was a tough day the other day with travel and we wanted to bring new guys in.”

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So did the changes have the desired effect?

“I thought we had a good start with that, good first period, energy,” he said. “The power play may have lost momentum. The second period they got it back and obviously scored a big one at the end.”

The changes did alter the lines; Andrew Shaw was moved to center the third line with Patrick Sharp and Versteeg, and Nordstrom was on the fourth line with Marcus Kruger and Andrew Desjardins.

Versteeg found out earlier Thursday he was playing in Game 3.

“The first two shifts it was like I was standing in the speedway,” said Versteeg, who played 13:31. “It was going pretty quick. Once the game progressed, I thought I settled in nicely. Obviously would have liked to tuck one away for the guys to help them out. All in all, I felt pretty good tonight.”

As we said, it’s surprising that Quenneville changed things after a victory. It was also strange to hear the “tired legs” reason. At Wednesday’s availability, Quenneville was asked about his top defensemen’s high minutes, and if he was concerned about the potential wear and tear to them.

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“They just had 10 days off,” he said. “So I feel pretty good about it.”

Asked if Vermette and/or Teravainen were hurt, Quenneville said they were “fine.” Teravainen certainly seemed healthy on Thursday morning, when he participated in an optional skate and talked to the media following it. But is Vermette healthy? Maybe he is. But this is the postseason, when no one dares mention injuries.

We’ll find out more in the coming days. Will the Blackhawks go back to the lineup they had prior to Game 3? Quenneville said, “we’ll consider all our options.”

The lineup changes weren’t the reason why the Blackhawks lost on Thursday. But if both players are healthy, it also seems those lineup changes weren’t necessary.

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