Quenneville’s pre-Christmas surprise? Patrick Sharp on the top Blackhawks’ line vs Devils

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – Nothing gets the brain of the Blackhawks’ coach going like getting shutout by a division opponent.

The latest line creation by Joel Quenneville following a 4-0 loss to the Stars on Thursday night is one that caught a few people off guard.

Patrick Sharp, who has struggled for most of this season in his return to the team after two years in Dallas, will be on the Blackhawks’ top line against the Devils tonight. It’s a game you can watch on WGN starting at 6 PM.

He’ll join the line of Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad while Alex DeBrincat. who was on the top line Thursday, goes to the third line with Ryan Hartman and Richard Panik. He replaces Vincent Hinostroza, who was not in the lines at morning skate this morning in New Jersey.

“Playing with Johnny and Saader, there is some offense there, a little more consistency on the production side,” said Quenneville of the move. “Getting “The Cat” (DeBrincat) back there, he was scoring at a higher rate down there, maybe that could help both lines.”

Sharp’s return to Chicago hasn’t been a productive one so far with the veteran netting just three goals on the season, and only one since October 14th. That score came on November 27th, and throughout the struggles, the winger has been shifted all around the lineup by Quenneville. On Thursday he was healthy scratch, yet Sharp isn’t letting the struggles get him down.

That’s the benefit of being in the NHL for 16 years, though struggles like this are rare for the former All-Star and three-time Stanley Cup champion.

“In professional sports, professional hockey, there’s a lot of challenges. Even when I’m scoring goals or going to All-Star Games, there are challenges throughout the year,” said Sharp. “It’s a different challenge. Mental toughness is one of the biggest things about being a pro and you’ve got to find a way to rise above and get to be better.”

Maybe this line change will make that happen sooner than later.