The Blackhawks have changed at least one element of their forward lines almost every game since the trade deadline, experimenting with all sorts of trios in an effort to uncover some hidden chemistry.
And after a 5-2 loss to the Flames on Monday, as the Hawks prepare for their final multi-game road trip of the season, more changes are inevitable.
Lukas Reichel will be sent back down to Rockford to aid their playoff push, interim coach Derek King said, meaning his NHL rookie season is likely over after 11 games.
MacKenzie Entwistle, meanwhile, suffered a right shoulder injury Monday and won’t come on the trip. Nor will Kirby Dach, who is “feeling better but not quite ready,” King said. Those three absences mean the Hawks, who’d been carrying plenty of healthy scratches, will dress a significantly different lineup Wednesday against the Coyotes.
“You just flow with it,” Lafferty said about the frequent line shuffling. “We’re trying things right now to see what works and what combinations are going to help the team win. A lot of times it’s mid-game, trying to find the right combo at the right time.”
Unfortunately, the new combos haven’t exactly helped them win too often. Monday’s loss marked their 10th in their last 11 games.
The Flames, who healthy-scratched ex-Hawk Ryan Carpenter in his return to Chicago, took the lead 22 seconds in and led wire-to-wire. The Hawks did settle into the game, receiving unlikely goals from Tyler Johnson (his first since artificial disc replacement) and Alec Regula (his first of his NHL career), but two empty-netters for Calgary inflated the final score.
“We played alright at times — all year we’ve been doing that,” Johnson said. “[But] we make the game too difficult at times, [and] good teams make you pay for that.”