Richard Panik unfazed by top-line drought — ‘just a matter of time’
After going through a similar boom-or-bust start last season, Richard Panik is biding his time, working to create opportunities and awaiting the next wave.
After scoring five goals in the Blackhawks’ first nine games, Panik went scoreless in the next nine heading into Wednesday’s game against the Rangers. The drought is similar to last season’s, when he scored six goals in the first six games, then went 17 games without a goal. He still ended up with 22 goals and 44 points and a two-year contract worth $2.8 million per season.
“It’s hard [to explain],” Panik said. “Against Montreal in the last seconds, I had a wide-open net, a one-timer and I totally missed that. When you’re hot, you don’t even look and you shoot it on net and it goes in. It’s hard to say why that is, but it’s like that.”
Panik is far from the only Hawks forward who is due. Linemates Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad also are slumping. Toews came into the game with one goal in his previous 13 games. Saad had one goal in his previous 12 games. There’s enough firepower on that line — including Panik — to think the drought can’t last too long.
“Lately, our line has been generating chances — just the puck’s not going into the net,” Panik said. “It’s tough, because if I don’t score and we win, I don’t care. Now we win one, we lose one. We’re up and down, so it’s kind of frustrating. But as a line, I think we’re generating lots of chances. It’s just a matter of time before they go in and start a hot streak.”
At 34, defenseman Duncan Keith’s ice team (25:11 per game) remains near peak levels, but coach Joel Quenneville is aware of managing the veteran’s time on the ice. Keith did not participate in the morning skate as a “maintenance” move.
“We’ve tried to keep an eye on [it], particularly the guys who play a lot of minutes,” Quenneville said. “Whether it’s days off, in games based on the way things are going. But you’re always going to try to win that game. At the same time, if there’s a chance to curl it back a bit, you like to take it away.”
The Hawks will practice at MB Ice Arena across the street from the United Center for the first time Thursday after using Johnny’s IceHouse West for the past seven seasons.
“Spectacular,” Quenneville said. “I’ve seen a lot of different rinks and practice facilities — this is second to none. Rocky [Wirtz] and the organization did an outstanding job. It has everything anyone would want — from the trainers to how we move in and out of the building to a coaches’ office . . . players’ lounge, kitchen, locker rooms, meeting rooms. It’ll wow you.”
Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.