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Peter Regin on fourth line, Kris Versteeg on top line as Hawks try to escape Wild stranglehold
The Blackhawks series against the Minnesota Wild has come to this: In an attempt to spark a heretofore ineffective fourth line, coach Joel Quenneville is turning to Peter Regin, who will be playing for the first time in the postseason after being a healthy scratch for the first 10 games of the playoffs.
Regin skated with Joakim Nordstrom and Ben Smith at the Hawks’ morning skate on Sunday in preparation for Game 5 at the United Center. The series is tied 2-2 after the Wild outplayed and outfought the Hawks to win both games at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
“[He's] got some speed and quickness,” Quenneville said. “Responsible both sides of the puck. Looking to get that element into our game as well.”
Regin, who played well down the stretch after being acquired in a trade with the New York Islanders in February, is excited for the opportunity.
“I’m going to try to just be myself and play the way I know I can,” he said. “I think I can bring some speed to the game. That’s kind of my thing, that I can skate. So I’m going to try to skate as much as I can and try to be in the right positions and hopefully good things will happen.”
That Peter Regin — who had two goals and four points in 17 games with the Blackhawks — and the fourth line is an issue at this point of the postseason is yet another sign of the difficulty the Hawks are having at countering the Wild’s effectiveness at limiting the Hawks’ explosive offense. The Hawks scored two goals in two games against the Wild in St. Paul.
“I thought down the stretch [the Wild was] arguably the top team in the league,” Quenneville said when asked if the Wild were even tougher than the Hawks thought. “And how they beat Colorado was comparable to the way they played.
“They’re hard to play against; they check well; they have some team speed; and they’ve got more skill in their lineup than we saw last year [when the Hawks beat the Wild in five games]. It’s a better team. I’m going to say par to what we thought they’d be. Not an easy game. Not an easy opponent.”
Quenneville has jumbled his lines throughout the series in an attempt to escape the stranglehold the Wild has on the Hawks’ offense. With Smith on the fourth line, Kris Versteeg — almost straight out of the doghouse — was on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell at the morning skate. And it appears Sheldon Brookbank could play for Michal Rozsival, who struggled in Game 4 — including a critical turnover that led to the Wild’s first goal, in a series where the team that scores first has won each time.
At this point they are left to hope that players who had contributed little if anything — Regin and Versteeg — can help the Hawks snap out of it.
“We’re looking for more directness in his game; more pace,” Quenneville said of Versteeg. “We were ready to start him at the beginning of the series and he was sick. We want to get him up to speed, where he’s contributing with the puck, without the puck, influencing both ways, and have more speed in his game.”