Blackhawks looking to direct traffic in front of the net

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Bryan Bickell goes to the net to try to score against Dallas on Sunday at the United Center. (AP Photo)

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Blackhawks are struggling. So Joel Quenneville is tinkering. 

With two losses and two skin-of-their-teeth victories in the last four games, the Hawks coach scratched Teuvo Teravainen and split up Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw to try to spread out the grit and create more so-called greasy goals. The Hawks fired 54 shots at Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov on Tuesday, but failed to generate much net-front traffic or second chances in a 2-0 loss.

Bickell will start out on the left wing with Brad Richards and Patrick Kane. Patrick Sharp moved to Shaw’s line.

“I think they just want to spread it out more,” Bickell said following Thursday’s morning skate. “Get some net-front [presence] and some grit on a couple of lines, to help get pucks and traffic tot he net. We’re playing good, but we’re just not getting second or third opportunities. Me and [Shaw] like to go to the net, that’s where our bread and butter is. Splitting us up, hopefully it’ll work out.”

Quenneville also is bringing agitator Daniel Carcillo back into the lineup after making him a healthy scratch the last two games. Teravainen is the odd-man out in that situation after posting four shots and no points in his first two games of the season, while Quenneville gave him positive reviews. Teravainen was overmatched a bit physically from time to time, but appeared poised and comfortable with the puck.

“A little balance,” Quenneville said, when asked what he was looking for. “We didn’t change up too much.”

It’s also something of a reward for Bickell, who’s been strong of late. With two goals and an assist in his last four games, Bickell has seen his ice time rise from 9:42 on Dec. 29 to 15:19 against the Avalanche. 

“Bick’s been fine,” Quenneville said, “Physically, he’s there. The production, still working on that. But I think the consistency in his game has been in place for the last probably 10 games or so.”

Bickell had the game-tying goal with 1:13 left in the dramatic Dec. 29 victory over Nashville, stuffing in a David Rundblad rebound in a goalmouth scrum. That’s the blue print the Hawks want to follow to break out of their recent mini-funk. 

“[Varlamov] made a lot of saves [with us] shooting right at him,” Sharp said. “The first shot wasn’t the issue, we just have to have guys in front — tips, second and third opportunities. The same thing we always talk about whenever we get shut out.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus

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