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Blackhawks happy with Patrick Sharp on top line

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CHICAGO – A simple switch by the Blackhawks that sent Patrick Sharp to the top line and Brandon Saad to the second line has earned at least one vocal supporter.

Cue Marian Hossa, who enjoyed playing alongside Sharp and Jonathan Toews.

“I thought we created something there,” Hossa said Tuesday at the United Center, where the Hawks returned to start preparing for Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series Thursday in Detroit. “Sharpie’s one of the top scorers in the league. [We] try to get him the puck. Find each other. Keep it simple: Shoot it and go to the net. Having him there, little things changed.

“And having ‘Saader’ on the other line, something changed, too.”

Saad joined second-line teammates Dave Bolland and Patrick Kane after the switch. However, it’s uncertain whether the change will remain in effect for the start of Game 4.

“We’ll see,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ll look at our lines as we go along here, whether we fluctuate in games or going into games. Loosen things up, maybe.”

No one seems to be uptight regardless of how the lines shake out.

“That’s up to Joel,” said Sharp, who leads the Hawks with 10 points in the playoffs. “He’s got a good feel for the team, especially the forwards, mixing and matching. I’ll play wherever he puts me, and I trust he knows the right combinations.”

Another take: Hawks defenseman Michal Rozsival offered a veteran perspective on what the Red Wings are doing so well to limit scoring opportunities by the Hawks.

Although the Hawks tallied 40 shots in Game 3, many came from long range.

“It seems like they are playing well in front of the net,” Rozsival said. “They’re boxing out our forwards. They [force] a lot of shots from the outside.

“They’re blocking shots in front of the net. … They are doing a good job and they are getting the bounces right now. That’s something I can see a big difference in their game.”

Not good enough: The Hawks won 29 faceoffs while losing 37 in Game 3, which marked the third consecutive game in which they lost the faceoff battle against the Wings.

Quenneville said his team’s wingers and defensemen needed to do more to come up with loose pucks off faceoffs instead of relying on centers to do all of the work.

“It’s definitely a factor,” Quenneville said. “We’ve got to get better in that area. That’s definitely an area that is a point of emphasis going forward.”


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