The Chicago Blackhawks have been powered by their top line so far, but the top line can only perform for so long. And as a result it appears it will be the second half of the “top six” that will have to pick up the slack when needed.
At the center position, Michal Handzus is seeing a lot of time and doing a very good job with two points and a +2 rating, but the preservation process by coach Joel Quenneville has already begun, as Handzus sat out Saturday night against the Buffalo Sabres. In his absence, Marcus Kruger has looked comfortable at the second line center.
At the wings, Marian Hossa fortunately looks perfectly healthy, but not only as a security blanket, but due to the fact the Blackhawks have Hossa under contract for the rest of his career. The same precautionary treatment Handzus receives should spread to Hossa as the season goes on.
“We’re all hoping that he’s going to be fine. It’s a back, so you never know. It could be a tough injury, but so far he’s doing well.” Defenseman Michal Rozsival told NHL.com that as Coach Q has been doing the same thing with him this entire season.
Who will be ready to step up into the top six? Well rather fortunately for the team, they won’t have to find out, as Patrick Sharp will not to have to miss any time. His second daughter was born Sunday evening, and Sharp will play against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The production of the second line has been under-appreciated, with Hossa, Sharp, and Handzus combining for seven points in five games. Defensively, Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarrson are proving to be an incredible tandem once again at +4 apiece, only adding to the fact that despite being less flashy than the top line, the second line is just as productive five games into a young season.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486