The Chicago Blackhawks have won three in a row, including a weekend sweep of Dallas and Edmonton. Coach Joel Quenneville has his team playing winning hockey even though they have been skating with only 11 forwards in the lineup.
Quenneville has elected to skate defenseman Sheldon Brookbank up front in Chicago's last three games. It's difficult to argue with the results, though seeing Brookbank skating on the 'Hawks third line suggests that there is a new dweller in Quenneville's doghouse.
The latest inhabitant in the kennel is Jeremy Morin.
Since skating just 7:21 in Chicago's overtime loss to Calgary, Morin has been sitting and watching Brookbank log ice time in his stead. Very little ice time, I might add.
Brookbank skated 8:14 against Winnipeg Wednesday night, 5:50 in Dallas Saturday and 6:47 Sunday against the Oilers. He was used in just eight shifts while a host of players turn turns skating with Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell.
Morin has been on an extremely short leash when he has played since being recalled October 25. Quenneville is apparently trying to drum his defensive philosophy into Morin's head. However, it's hard to see how sitting him every night helps in that department.
Morin had eight points in eight games with Rockford to start the season. He is a much better fit to skate with Shaw and Bickell than Brookbank.
An extra defender can be a nice luxury to have if you're trying to save some legs on the blue line. Of course, when Michal Rozsival went to the locker room after taking a puck to the face while on the bench during Sunday's game against the Oilers, the move pays off and Brookbank slides to defense.
Except that he didn't. Quenneville kept Nick Leddy on the bench for those last five minutes. Brookbank never took a shift in the last 12 minutes in any capacity.
Clearly, a message is being sent to Morin. Play it Quenneville's way or get used to being a spectator.
I don't know what Morin did to be removed from the lineup. However, I do know that it is possible to find a way out. Bickell and Michael Frolik are two names that were frequent scratches in past seasons despite the fact that both were big contributors for the 2013 Stanley Cup champions.
With three games in four days starting Thursday, Quenneville may elect to use Morin if he sees something he likes from the rookie at practice this week. If not, Morin may be heading back to Rockford.
So long as Quenneville opts to go with seven defensemen, expect Morin to be firmly entrenched in the doghouse. How Morin is paroled is up to him and his coach.