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updated: 5/29/2014 1:05 AM

Lineup tweak pays huge dividends

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  • Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville directs his team during the second period of Game 5 Wednesday night at the United Center.

      Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville directs his team during the second period of Game 5 Wednesday night at the United Center.
    Associated Press

 
By Brian Hedger
Special to the Daily Herald

Facing a 3-1 series deficit against the Detroit Red Wings in the conference semifinals a year ago, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville made an eye-opening lineup switch with his defensemen that worked for the rest of the playoffs.

After splitting longtime defense partners Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook mid-season, he reunited them before Game 5, and the Hawks won to get back in the series. Wednesday night at the UC, facing a 3-1 deficit against the Los Angeles Kings, he did it again -- only in reverse.

This time Quenneville split up Keith and Seabrook in a jumble of all six defensemen, and the Hawks responded again, adding some instant offense in a 5-4 double-overtime victory.

"Well, you needed to change something, maybe, to wake us up a little bit," said Johnny Oduya, who scored a goal and assisted on a goal by Ben Smith 1:17 into the third that tied it 4-4. "Sometimes that works. I think it worked pretty good (tonight). We're comfortable, obviously, with different types of pairings. We had more than half the playoffs last year like that, so it's something good.

"Now let's just keep going."

Quenneville paired Niklas Hjalmarsson with Keith on the top pairing, moved Nick Leddy from the third line to the second, with Seabrook, and put Oduya and Michal Rozsival together on the third.

It didn't work perfectly, but it worked. More defensive lapses led to Kings goals and Leddy was eventually moved back with Rozsival in overtime, but the net outcome was similar to last year.

"Sometimes a little bit of a change goes a long way," Oduya said. "In an important game like this, we need the (defense) to be jumping and need the 'D' to be involved in the offense, and if we can get some production from that, that's good."

The Hawks got their first two goals from Seabrook and Oduya to build a 2-0 lead 3:40 into the game.

Seabrook, who vowed to be better than he was in Game 4, scored his goal on a power play at 1:13 of the first. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty was called for tripping Jonathan Toews and the Hawks got a chance to mend their broken power play right off the bat.

After going 0-for-7 in the two games at the Staples Center, looking listless and out of sorts, the Hawks finally got their top power-play unit set up properly in the offensive zone. They worked the puck up to Seabrook near the blue line and he fired a one-time slapshot through traffic that beat Kings goalie Jonathan Quick for a 1-0 lead.

The goal was Seabrook's first point of this series, after coming into the matchup tied with Marian Hossa for the team lead with 11 points.

Oduya didn't need long to put another in the net.

Just 2:27 after Seabrook scored, Oduya swatted home a rebound of Patrick Kane's shot while falling to the ice for a 2-0 lead. It was Oduya's second goal of the playoffs and first since Game 1 of the first round against the Blues, a span of 16 games.

Just like that, Quenneville got the spark he was looking for from the back end of the Hawks' attack. Until the third period and the overtimes, he also achieved more balanced ice time for his defensemen with the new look.

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