New-look third line hopes to make the most of its versatility

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Chicago Blackhawks’ Teuvo Teravainen (86) plays in an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Dennis Rasmussen has dabbled at the wing before, playing there for Sweden during the World Juniors in 2010 and the World Championships in 2014, and even a couple games with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs last season.

Teuvo Teravainen is a natural center who has spent the bulk of his NHL career at wing. And Andrew Desjardins spent most of his career in the middle before the Blackhawks moved him to wing last spring.

So who is the center on the Hawks’ new third line? Who cares?

“It’s not going to be like you have just your own role,” Rasmussen said after Thursday’s morning skate. “We can cover up for each other, and we can let the first guy just go all the time. That’s going to be to our advantage.”

Teravainen, who has spent the entire season shuffling around the lineup and shrugging off each move, had a similar outlook.

“It’s not so much about positions,” he said. “We can just play, and whoever’s coming down first might be the center for a while. Everybody’s responsible, so it’s fun. They’re good guys to play with.”

With Marian Hossa out at least two more games, Marcus Kruger’s return still weeks away, and the Monday trade deadline likely to shake up the Hawks lineup, Joel Quenneville is using this brief window to try out some new combinations among his bottom six. The new-look third line is built similarly to last spring’s terrific fourth line of Desjardins, Kruger and Andrew Shaw —also three centers who all could played wing. The most recent incarnation —Phil Danault centering Desjardins and Teravainen —had a similar feel, but fizzled offensively in recent weeks.

“I think it’s got some responsibility, defensively,” Quenneville said. “Hopefully there’s some offense there. That’s what we’re hoping for, getting some balance and getting Teuvo in the middle, we’ll give him a look back in that area and see how it goes.”

For Rasmussen, being on the wing will free him up to forecheck more aggressively, but it also will require him to do more work along the boards and in the corners than he’s used to. At 6-3, 205 pounds, he believes he can be effective in that role.

Of course, he also knows that —as is the case with any Quenneville lineup change —it could last a couple of months, a couple of games, or a couple of shifts.

“Exactly, you never know,” Rasmussen said. “That’s why I have the same approach I’ve had all season — do whatever the coaches want, and be adjustable so I can be useful.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus

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