Quenneville hopes new Chicago Blackhawks 'D' pairs provide balance

 
 
Updated 2/8/2018 7:21 PM
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Ever since Jordan Oesterle has become a mainstay in the Chicago Blackhawks' lineup, the defenseman has been paired with Duncan Keith.

But that all changed Thursday.

Coach Joel Quenneville decided to mix up his 'D' pairings against the Dallas Stars, moving Oesterle down to play with Michal Kempny and slotting Connor Murphy back into the lineup alongside Keith.

"Maybe get a little more balance, try something different," Quenneville said. "That's what we're looking for more than anything."

Oesterle played 24 straight games with Keith and has credited the veteran for helping grow his game in immeasurable ways.

Oesterle has no goals and 1 assist in the last 11 games, but he is second behind Keith in average ice time at just under 22 minutes. With Kempny also being an offensive-minded D-man, the duo might be able to spark the goal-starved Hawks from the back end.

Murphy, meanwhile, has had an up-and-down season. He has 1 goal and 8 assists in 47 games and is averaging just 15:48 per game.

Quenneville, though, has liked the fact that Murphy -- a right shot -- has been able to play on his off side much of the season. Now that he's back on the right, the coach is hoping his game will become steadier.

"That's what you're going to get from Murphy," Quenneville said. "Be predictable, be dependable. When you're playing with Duncs, you're going to get important minutes and that'll be a good test."

Slap shots:

Coach Joel Quenneville wasn't sure if Corey Crawford would travel on the Hawks' three-game road trip, which begins in Minnesota on Saturday. … Defenseman Jan Rutta remains out with an injury and is day to day. … Tomas Jurco and Lance Bouma were the Hawks' healthy scratches against Dallas. …

Before Thursday, Dallas was 4-1-3 in its last eight games at the United Center. … Goalie Ben Bishop was 7-0-1 in his last eight games against the Hawks.

Heading into Wednesday's games, the Hawks had the second-best penalty-kill rate (88.1) in the NHL since Jan. 1. Only Vegas (90.5) was better. … Matthew Highmore scored twice in Rockford's 3-1 victory over San Antonio on Wednesday. Highmore leads the IceHogs with 20 goals. Tyler Sikura is next with 14.

He said it:

"I feel like coaches should have 100-year contracts."

Dallas' Ken Hitchcock when asked if he's surprised no coaches have been fired this season

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