Colliton shakes up Blackhawks' lines
Joel Quenneville was always famous for his "line blender" and it seems his predecessor is following in his footsteps.
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews skated on the top line together at practice Saturday, meaning they will likely start a game together for the first time since Nov. 24. Drake Caggiula, who was acquired from Edmonton on Dec. 30, will join the two stars when the Hawks host Washington on Sunday at 11:30 a.m.
The other lines were blown up as well as:
• Dylan Strome centered Alex DeBrincat and Dominik Kahun.
• Brandon Saad skated with Marcus Kruger and David Kampf.
• Artem Anisimiov was demoted to the fourth line and centered John Hayden and Chris Kunitz.
There's potential for balance here, but these groupings look nothing like they did when the Hawks were beating Nashville, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Colorado and Minnesota at the end of December.
"I'm sure at the end of the day we have a foundation for what our team should look like," Toews said. "But sometimes you need to shake things up when you're going through a rough week or two."
The Hawks are 1-4-3 over their last eight games.
Jokiharju to sit?
Gustav Forsling (upper torso) returned to practice Saturday, but coach Jeremy Colliton said the defenseman will not play against Washington on Sunday.
Based on the 'D' pairings, that means Henri Jokiharju figures to be scratched against the Capitals. Slater Koekkoek would draw in and be paired with Erik Gustafsson.
Jokiharju has averaged just 14 minutes, 47 seconds of ice time in four games since returning from World Juniors. He averaged 19 minutes in his previous 32 games.
"It's not going to happen overnight where he becomes a dominant player at this level," Colliton said. "There's going to be ups and downs, and that's part of the journey as a young player. You've got to go through some adversity, and it's not going to be perfect and that's fine."
Jokiharju has no goals (on 61 shots), 12 assists and is a minus-5 in 36 games.
In the short term, it sounds like Colliton might go through a rotation with Jokiharju, Koekkoek and Forsling. One thing he doesn't want to do is ruin Jokiharju's confidence by overplaying him or giving him matchups he's not ready to handle.
"I'm not sure the way to go is to play them until they drown," Colliton said. "I don't think that's the way to go. I think we try to give them what they can handle and sometimes maybe give them less than they can handle while giving them feedback. …
"It's tough to play 82 games at this level against top competition night in and night out. (A rotation) could be an option to lighten the load somewhat."
Brendan Perlini (concussion protocol) did not participate in practice Saturday. Perlini was injured on a hit from the Rangers' Adam McQuaid late in the second period of the Hawks' 4-3 loss in New York on Thursday.