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Why Blackhawks are uniting Lukas Reichel, Connor Bedard on power play but not even strength

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MONTREAL — With Taylor Hall out because of an upper-body injury — he was originally listed as week-to-week but is now more day-to-day — the Chicago Blackhawks have a spot open on the top line for the time being.

The easy replacement would have been to bump up Lukas Reichel to play with Connor Bedard and Ryan Donato, but instead, Taylor Raddysh will get the first crack. Andreas Athanasiou was the one who slid into that role for the remainder of the Boston game on Wednesday.

Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson believes it'd be a little premature to move Reichel to the wing after they challenged him to work on his game as a center last season and over the summer.

"We just want to give Reichs some more time at center," Richardson said. "Both of them can't play center on the same line. And Rads, he's one of our better shooters, right? So we've got a shooter on both sides of him. He can really shoot. If they overplay him on the shot, he can make plays, obviously as we've seen, so I think we have him surrounded well."

Athanasiou and Reichel played together quite a bit last season, and even started training camp on the same line. They're going to be reunited.

"It gives Reichel a little speed with AA out there with him," Richardson said. "We saw some good things with that last year, so we're still playing with things."

The Blackhawks did, however, promote Reichel to the first power-play unit in Hall’s absence. That’s a good compromise, because it’s an area where Bedard and Reichel can build on their chemistry together that started in Boston when they played a few shifts together at even strength.

"It was nice to see a little bit of connection with Reichel and Connor at the end of the Boston game," Richardson said. "They created a few really good chances. We can always go back to that [at even strength] but we just think this is more balance for us right now and it gives those two young guys a little more look at center that we want to see where they go with it."

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