The Chicago Blackhawks are in an unfamiliar position these days in terms of health. Maybe that's why coach Joel Quenneville is having trouble utilizing his bench.
With three regulars out of the lineup Friday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, Quenneville was faced with a choice. He could spread the minutes around or shorten the bench and rely on his big guns.
Quenneville chose the latter, and the 'Hawks won 3-2. However, employing this strategy doesn't seem like a sound way to go down the stretch with less than a dozen games to play in the regular season.
The Blackhawks placed Patrick Kane on long-term injured reserve, losing his services until the start of the playoffs. Heading into the puck drop Friday, Chicago was also without Brandon Saad and Bryan Bickell up front. Michal Rozsival was also unavailable on the back end.
In a post from ESPNChicago.com's Scott Powers, general manager Stan Bowman offered insight as to how to weather the rash of injuries keeping players out of Friday's game.
He said, "We're going to get him (Kane) back and ready to go leading into the playoffs. Those things happen. I think sometimes it gives other guys an opportunity to step up and play."
A quick look at the box score told a different story.
Jeremy Morin, recalled with Teuvo Teravainen in response to Kane going to LTIR, skated six minutes and 52 seconds. Sheldon Brookbank, slumming as a forward Friday, had 6:16 of action. David Rundblad, Chicago's sixth defenseman against the Hurricanes, had 8:23 of ice time.
Meanwhile, captain Jonathan Toews, whose short-handed tally in the third period was the game-winner, was used for 23:46. Marian Hossa skated 22:34 Friday as the Blackhawks put a three-point gap between themselves and Colorado for second place in the Central Division.
The bottom line is that the 'Hawks picked up a big two points in the standings. Quenneville has 701 more coaching victories than I do, so he knows something about using his personnel. That said, I find it hard to believe that Chicago is going to be able to lean that heavily on its stars and still be fresh for the postseason.
Morin is playing his best hockey in his pro career of late in Rockford. With Kane, Saad and Bickell all out of action, doesn't he merit at least 12 minutes to see what he can contribute?
Michal Handzus committed consecutive penalties in the third period, including one that put the Hurricanes on a five-on-three and saw them tie the game. Still, Quenneville had the veteran on the ice for over 14 minutes.
If Morin takes penalties in that fashion, his coach just may have sent him to the locker room without his supper. Of course, third-period minutes were hard to come by Friday as Quenneville shortened the bench further still.
Brookbank never came off the bench in the final 20 minutes. Rundblad skated 1:50 with Morin skating two shifts for 1:01 of ice time.
We could see Teravainen make his NHL debut Sunday against Nashville or perhaps Tuesday when the Blackhawks host Dallas. How much Quenneville uses him probably depends on the impending returns of Saad and Bickell.
However the lineup shakes out in the last 11 regular-season games, it would be nice to see the bench being able to shoulder some of the work load. Hopefully Quenneville finds some combinations he can trust to keep his big names fresh down the stretch.