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Slumping Andrew Shaw dropped to Blackhawks' fourth line

Sure, Andrew Shaw’s a little mad that he might have lost his tenuous grip on the second-line center spot he has coveted. But he’s only mad at himself.

“I haven’t been playing great, I played myself here,” Shaw said after Tuesday’s morning skate. “Just in one of those slumps where you’ve got to keep working and simplify your game and work your way out of it.”

Shaw started Tuesday night’s game as the fourth-line center, having swapped spots with Brad Richards, but was back in his usual spot between Bryan Bickell and Brandon Saad for most of the second and third periods. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said the plan is to have Shaw and Richards each get some turns in that role.


Shaw emerged as a candidate for the Blackhawks’ longstanding hole at second-line center during the Western Conference final last season, and won the job from Brad Richards just before training camp ended. In 15 games entering Tuesday’s matchup with the Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay Lightning, Shaw had three goals and three assists, and was a minus-2 with the second-worst even-strength possession numbers on the team. Joel Quenneville chalked up the demotion to Shaw’s defensive lapses.

“We’re still trying to get that nailed, that part of his game,” Quenneville said. “Where everybody can play the same way without the puck. It’s not an easy job playing down low in your own end.”

Shaw earned his spot in the NHL by being a scrappy, third-liner. With the bump up to the second line, including starting the season alongside Patrick Kane, Shaw was thinking offense-first a little too often.

“I got away from doing those little things right — competing in those puck battles along the wall or being in tight, supporting the puck,” Shaw said. “I’ve just got to simplify and remember I’ve got to play defense first. The better defense I play, the more offensive chances I’m going to have. Just got to tighten everything up.”

Shaw wound up playing a healthy 17 minutes, 45 seconds, thanks largely to all the penalties Tampa Bay took. He’s still the Hawks’ best net-front presence on the power play, and Richards has yet to seize the No. 2 center job for himself.

“I think they could both see opportunities on both of those lines as we go along here,” Quenneville said. “We’ll see how it all plays out.”


Twitter: @marklazerus