Quenneville splits up struggling Toews, Hossa to spark offense

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Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa have combined for just one goal in the Hawks’ last eight games. (Sun-Times File)

DENVER — During the Blackhawks’ 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild at home on Sunday night, Patrick Kane had 12 shots on goal. Meanwhile, the entire top line of Vinnie Hinostroza, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa combined for two, both of them by Hossa.

So it wasn’t a great surprise that Joel Quenneville shook up his lineup for Tuesday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche, even splitting up Toews and Hossa, who have anchored that top line for several years. Toews was flanked by Ryan Hartman and Richard Panik, while Hossa was on the third line with Hinostroza and Tanner Kero.

“We’re looking for balance,” said Quenneville, repeating a common refrain since the start of last season. “We have one line right now that’s been productive, and we’re just trying to get some offense on other lines. We think, offensively, shaking them up sometimes can spark it.”

Toews’ offensive struggles this season have been well documented. After scoring 28 goals in each of the last three seasons, the Hawks captain has just seven goals and 14 assists this season. He said Tuesday the back injury that held him out of 10 games earlier in the season has not been a lingering issue, and that “It’s been really good, actually.”

Toews has one goal in his last eight games after a brief resurgence in late December. And now Hossa has cooled off after his torrid start, going nine games without a goal entering Tuesday.

“I just have to keep working,” Toews said. “It seems like every couple of weeks I’m sitting and answering questions with you guys as far as why my numbers aren’t there. It’s been frustrating. So I’m just trying to not lose that faith and that confidence. … I think when you get behind the 8-ball you start to worry about results too much, instead of just the process. It’s definitely been tough.”

Kane’s line, as it did last season, has been carrying the Hawks for much of the season. Kane, Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin have combined for 49 goals — nearly 39 percent of the Hawks’ goal total this season.

“So far, we’ve got one line who are consistent on the offensive side,” said Hossa, who was most productive when he and Kane swapped places earlier in the season. “The other lines obviously have good stretches, and then we get dry stretches. … I don’t know exactly why, but we have to find it before the playoff start.”

Dads trip

The Hawks brought along their dads for the five-night trip to Denver and Boston. Every year, the Hawks alternate between a moms trip and a dads trip. It’s a welcome break from the monotony of the regular-season routine.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Hossa, whose dad flew in from Slovakia ahead of Sunday’s home game. “It’s always nice after a couple of years to be on the road with dad or mom, and kind of experience that, and have good talks. During the season, you’re so much on the road, so much with the family. With the moms and dads, [they’re] usually [back] home, so we don’t connect with them as often.”

Most of the dads made the trip. Artemi Panarin brought his friend and occasional interpreter Andrew Aksyonov. And Michal Rozsival is the dad on the dads trip, as he brought his son along for the week.

Roster report

After dressing seven defensemen on Sunday, Quenneville went back to 12 forwards against Colorado, with Andrew Desjardins back in the lineup, and Michal Rozsival out.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus

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