Joel Quenneville

Blackhawks alters lines heading into Game 4

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Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville probably isn’t worried about making sure his team is more entertaining in Game 4 than they were in Game 3. Instead, he’s hoping to avoid another effort like the one that resulted in a 4-0 win by the Minnesota Wild.

Attribute it to experimentation, the Wild getting the last change or any number of factors, but it looks like he’s shuffling things up quite a bit, as reports.

The once-red-hot line of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell may look quite different as Ben Smith skated in Kane’s spot. Kane gets bumped down to a line with Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger while there’s the “third line” of Patrick Sharp, Michal Handzus and Marian Hossa. (Or would Kane’s line be the third line in this alignment?)

There’s always the chance that Quenneville was just messing around with different combos before going back to different lines tonight. It’s also far from unusual for a coach to make tweaks during a game.

Players like Smith note to that they’re quite comfortable with all the chances.

“All we can really do is prepare the way we had [the lines on Friday morning] and we’ll see what happens,” Smith said. “I think I have played with everyone this season, so it makes it a little easier. We’re always prepared for that because that is the way it is. It keeps us guessing, keeps us in the game and keeps us involved.”

The lower-level move of note is that Kris Versteeg is being replaced by Jeremy Morin.

On the defensive side, Niklas Hjalmarsson is expected to play despite skipping the morning skate while Nick Leddy returns with Sheldon Brookbank being lost in the shuffle.

Friday’s loss serves as ‘harsh lesson’ for Blue Jackets

Jasper Fast, Nick Foligno, Henrik Lundqvist
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Late in the third period of Friday’s game against the New York Rangers, things were looking good for Columbus.

Brandon Saad, who the team acquired from Chicago this off-season, scored his first goal of the season to give his team a 2-1 lead with under four minutes remaining in the contest.

Unfortunately for the Jackets, that’s as good as it would get.

The Rangers responded with three unanswered goals from Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello to spoil Columbus’ home opener.

“When something like that happens at the end, I think we’re gonna be a better team because of it,” defenseman Ryan Murray told reporters after the game. “It’s a harsh lesson, but it’s a good one.

Luckily for Columbus, they won’t have to wait very long to try and get their revenge.

The Blue Jackets and Rangers will finish off their home-and-home series at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, which might not be such a bad thing for Columbus.

“It’s good that we get another chance tomorrow,” Saad said after Friday’s game. “We were high on emotions (after the go-ahead goal) and they scored and it took the wind out of our sails, but we have to keep playing. We have to learn to keep doing our thing, regardless of the score.”



Kings GM says Mike Richards went into ‘a destructive spiral’

Mike Richards

The Los Angeles Kings may owe Mike Richards money until 2031 (seriously), but in settling his grievance, the team and player more or less get to turn the page.

Not before Kings GM Dean Lombardi shares his sometimes startling perspective, though.

Lombardi has a tendency to be candid, especially in the press release-heavy world of sports management. Even by his standards, his account of Richards’ “destructive sprial” is a staggering read from the Los Angeles Times’ Lisa Dillman.

“Without a doubt, the realization of what happened to Mike Richards is the most traumatic episode of my career,” Lombardi said in a written summation he provided to the Los Angeles Times. “At times, I think that I will never recover from it. It is difficult to trust anyone right now – and you begin to question whether you can trust your own judgment. The only thing I can think of that would be worse would be suspecting your wife of cheating on you for five years and then finding out in fact it was true.”

Lombardi provides plenty of eyebrow-raising statements to Dillman, including:

  • He believed he “found his own Derek Jeter” in Richards, a player who “at one time symbolized everything that was special about the sport.”
  • Lombardi remarked that “his production dropped 50 percent and the certain ‘it’ factor he had was vaporizing in front of me daily.”
  • The Kings GM believes that he was “played” by Richards.

… Yeah.

Again, it’s a powerful read that you should soak in yourself, even if you’re unhappy with the way the Kings handled the situation.

Maybe the most pressing of many lingering questions is: will we get to hear Richards’ side of the story?