It’s not easy replacing Patrick Sharp.
Just ask Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.
Sharp has missed the last two games with a sprained left shoulder, and the Hawks have lost both of them.
Bryan Bickell was given the first opportunity to take Sharp’s spot on left wing with Dave Bolland and Patrick Kane, but that meant splitting up the highly successful third line of Bickell, Andrew Shaw and Viktor Stalberg.
Stalberg got some time on the second line in Sunday’s loss to Edmonton.
Bickell and Stalberg were back with Shaw at practice Wednesday with Jimmy Hayes, recalled from Rockford on Tuesday, skating at left wing with Bolland and Kane.
“We looked at our lines and just getting them all back together, and just having (Hayes) fitting in Sharpie’s spot gives him a chance to continue on the way he has played there (at Rockford) based on how well he has played,” Quenneville said. “He’s earned the opportunity to get a spot like that and play with a couple nice players.
“He was on a tear down there and was producing at a real good rate. He was good for us last year when he first got here. I’m looking forward to seeing how he does.”
Hayes, who had been playing center at Rockford, was looking forward to the challenge of skating in a game with Kane.
“It gives you confidence,” Hayes said. “He’s a playmaker, so I just have to get to the net and try to get open for him.”
The 6-foot-6, 221-pound Hayes is the kind of big winger the Hawks don’t have.
“He’s got the ability to make a difference for this team, to play and play well at this level,” Jonathan Toews said. “He’s a big body and he skates well and he’s not afraid to use his size.
“He goes into tough areas and above all he makes plays and is a smart player. You put him with good players out there and he’s going to be a force.”
Reuniting Shaw, Bickell and Stalberg was a key for the Hawks at this point.
“It’s good we keep them together,” Toews said.
“Just watching them today in practice, it was nice seeing them back together,” Quenneville said. “When we look at it and say which line is going to be our best line, they’re capable on any given night of being as good as anybody, whether it’s zone time or their finish, or their speed off the attack.
“It seemed like they had a lot of jump in practice today. It looked like the lines being a little more familiar than the last couple games hopefully we can recapture that enthusiasm we had when we started.”
Bickell said just being familiar with linemates Shaw and Stalberg is important.
“I’m excited,” Bickell said. “I know after Sharpie went down with his injury he threw me in there and then Stalberg just to try something, but for our line to help our team when it needs a spark I know our line can bring it. We’ve been doing it all year.
“We feel really comfortable together. We know where each other is going to be and we feed off each other. With Stalberg’s speed and Shaw’s grit and his willingness to do whatever it takes to get the puck, we don’t make fancy plays, but we can make plays that work.”
Stalberg has found a home it seems on the third line as well.
“We’ve had some success and hopefully we can keep it going,” Stalberg said. “I don’t know if the second line is a more offensive role for me. I think our line can score just as much as any line.
“I’m not too concerned with that. If we have three offensive lines going, or whatever you want to call it, it only adds more balance to the lineup.
“Obviously we haven’t played as well as a group the last two games so we’re looking to get back to what made us successful with those lines.”
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