Blackhawks experiment with breaking up Panarin and Kane

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In the modern NHL, it’s rare for two linemates to spend virtually every shift together.

The Chicago Blackhawks presented an even more unusual situation, as a rookie (Artemi Panarin) managed to generate such instant chemistry with an established star (Patrick Kane) that they were almost attached at the hip.

That made for a second line that very much felt a lot like a top combo, with Panarin winning the Calder Trophy while Kane mopped up the Art Ross and Hart.

Some might say “Why mess with a good thing?” but as CSN Chicago notes, the Blackhawks are at least fiddling around with other arrangements during the preseason.

“Over the course of a season you know they’ll be together at times. But that’s something that’s going to get sorted out,” Joel Quenneville said. “The chemistry among the two of them is special. They’ll always (have) some shifts together. Whether (or not) they will be permanently together is something we’ll evaluate.”

It barely feels like hyperbole to say that they were permanently together last season.

Panarin saw 1,180:12 minutes of ice time last season, and of that time, Kane was on the ice for 1,004:06 with him. Artem Anisimov often accompanied them, and to really bring home the point, the next most common forward partner for Panarin was Jonathan Toews at 141:06.

To get an idea of how unusual that stability is, consider how often Toews skated with common linemate Marian Hossa by comparison (a little more than half of Toews’ shifts were with No. 81).

The draw of moving Panarin and Kane around is obvious, at least on paper.

They’re both wildly creative players who can make magic happen for others, so what if they can spread the wealth? Besides, the Blackhawks may want to determine how much of Panarin’s success comes from lining up with Kane before handing him a huge contract extension.

Coach Q must weigh the potential benefits of moving them around versus the possibility that they should just be glad to find a magical combination.

It’s not the worst problem to have by any stretch, yet it’s something to watch for a Blackhawks team that has some offensive questions to answer … at least relatively speaking.