THERE’S NO ‘I’ IN SHAW

Ver­sa­tile for­ward tak­ing in­evitable ‘de­mo­tion’ in stride be­cause he knows it’s best for team

Chicago Sun-Times - - BLACKHAWKS BEAT - MARK LAZERUS

Even for the most self­less team player, the thought of be­ing bumped from the top line to the fourth line typ­i­cally would be frus­trat­ing, if not out­right in­sult­ing. But the Black­hawks’ fourth line isn’t a typ­i­cal fourth line, and An­drew Shaw isn’t a typ­i­cal player.

So when the Hawks fi­nally re­turn to full strength in the com­ing weeks — Mar­ian Hossa might be back Wed­nes­day and Mar­cus Kruger will be back be­fore the end of the reg­u­lar sea­son — Shaw won’t com­plain when his stint as one of Jonathan Toews’ wings comes to an end. It’s the bless­ing and the curse of the Hawks adding three scor­ing wingers at the trade dead­line.

‘‘I don’t think it’s a curse at all,’’ Shaw said. ‘‘I think it’s a pos­i­tive. It gives us an­other chance to go deep in the play­offs. It shows that [man­age­ment] had the con­fi­dence in the team to add more play­ers and make us that much bet­ter.’’

While Shaw has done an ad­mirable job on the top line since just af­ter Christ­mas, the Hawks are at their best when he’s in a bot­tom-six role, pro­vid­ing scor­ing depth and en­ergy down in the lineup. And while most fourth lines play only a hand­ful of min­utes a night, the Hawks’ soon-to-be-re­united fourth line of An­drew Des­jardins, Kruger and Shaw was as big a rea­son as any that they won the Stan­ley Cup last spring.

‘‘We just play a style of game that com­ple­ments each other — ag­gres­sive, hard on the puck, good on the forecheck, re­spon­si­ble de­fen­sively,’’ Des­jardins said. ‘‘I don’t know how else to ex­plain it. It just seemed right, and it just worked.’’

The Hawks’ depth at for­ward is usu­ally what sep­a­rates them from other con­tenders. That depth hasn’t been there this sea­son, as Pa­trick Kane’s line has had to carry the lineup for much of the sea­son. But by adding An­drew Ladd (who’s tak­ing Shaw’s spot on the top line), To­mas Fleis­chmann and Dale Weise (who are likely to flank Teuvo Ter­a­vainen on the third line), the Hawks sud­denly have a for­mi­da­ble four-line ro­ta­tion again.

It’s a sign of Shaw’s ver­sa­til­ity and value that he can play on any line and at any po­si­tion. He has been fill­ing in for Hossa on Toews’ right wing since Ladd ar­rived.

‘‘He’s a guy that can pret­ty­much fill any role,’’ Kane said. ‘‘I know that he’s been a big fan fa­vorite ever since he’s come to the team, but he does a lot of things on the ice that can get other play­ers ex­cited, too— whether it’s fights or big hits or tak­ing hits to make plays, es­pe­cially at his size. He’s a valu­able as­set. And he’s a great guy for the locker room, too. I think we all en­joy his pres­ence here. He brings a lot to the team.’’

That team-first men­tal­ity is why Shaw isn’t silently stew­ing or openly whin­ing about his in­evitable ‘‘de­mo­tion’’ down the lineup, even in a con­tract year. Shaw will be a re­stricted free agent af­ter the sea­son, and while he has a ca­reer-high 20 as­sists to go with his 11 goals through 66 games, it’s his all-around use­ful­ness that has en­deared him to his team­mates — and to coach Joel Quen­neville.

‘‘You look at our team, and any­one can play in that [top-line] spot,’’ Shaw said. ‘‘We’ve got four lines that can play hockey and play hockey well. No mat­ter where I’m play­ing, I’m just ex­cited for the play­offs and to fin­ish the sea­son strong. It should be fun.’’

Fol­low me on Twit­ter @MarkLazerus.

| JONATHAN DANIEL/GETTY IM­AGES

An­drew Shaw, who will be a re­stricted free agent af­ter the sea­son, has 11 goals and a ca­reer-high 20 as­sists in the Hawks’ 66 games.

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