If Richard Panik isn’t scoring, coach Joel Quenneville wants him hitting.
These days, he’s not doing either.
Panik entered Sunday’s game against the Kings mired in a 16-game goal drought. While that’s a bit extreme, it’s not all that unusual for Panik, who has been a wildly streaky scorer throughout his career. His inconsistency is the primary reason Mike Babcock and the Maple Leafs gave up on him and sent him to the Blackhawks two years ago.
But what’s particularly alarming about this slump is how passive Panik has been on the ice. Panik and Quenne-ville think the winger is most effective when he’s physically involved, but entering Sunday, Panik had been credited with one hit in the previous six games combined. Hits are a notoriously unreliable stat, but this is the guy who led the Hawks in hits last year with 147.
“Certain goal-scorers or players, they get hot and cold,” Quenneville said. “In his case, [if he can find that] consistency, [it] makes him potentially a power forward. You have to hit, and you have to bang. If you’re not scoring, you still like to bang. In his case, he plays more effective when he’s more physically engaged, whether he’s at the net or he’s hard to play against coming up with pucks in the corners.”
Confidence was an issue for Panik earlier in his career, but he seemed to break through last year with 22 goals, earning a two-year contract worth $2.8 million per season. Now confidence issues have crept back into his game, and he seems to be bringing down his linemates, Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews, in the process.
Quenneville demurred when asked if he’d consider bumping Panik down (or out of) the lineup in favor of red-hot Alex DeBrincat, but he said he’d like to give the rookie occasional shifts on the top line throughout the game. By the end of the first period Sunday, though, Quenneville had bumped Panik all the way down to the fourth line, swapping him with John Hayden.
“Everybody wants to do well, everybody wants to score,” Quenneville said. “Sometimes, whether it’s taking away ice time or taking away quality opportunities, you make them work their way through it.”
No rest for weary
The puck dropped Sunday at the United Center about 19 hours after the Hawks trudged off the ice in Dallas. It was the Hawks’ fifth game in seven days, the first time they’ve had such a stretch since December 2013.
Meanwhile, the Kings had waited in Chicago since Friday night.
“It’s pretty tough,” defenseman Cody Franson said after the game in Dallas. “Especially this back-to-back. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one quite like this, where it’s two-hour travel in, game starts at 8, two-hour travel back, game starts at 6, after playing two-in-three before that. It’s something that we’ve got to manage.”
Quenneville said that he was pleased with how evenly the Hawks’ minutes were distributed over the week but that he’d try to keep shifts short Sunday.
Brent Seabrook’s level of play rose noticeably when his minutes dropped last month. Most of those sacrificed minutes came on the power play, with Seabrook mostly off the unit for a seven-game stretch. But he has been back at the point on the power play the last few games, taking Franson’s spot in Dallas. Seabrook played 22 minutes, his most in nearly four weeks. In his previous two games, he had played 14:29 and 14:08.
Quenneville said it’s up to Seabrook and Franson who gets that power-play time.
“There’s some competition for it based on performance,” Quenneville said.
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