Col­li­ton likes play­ing matchup game

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - BY BEN POPE, STAFF RE­PORTER bpope@sun­times.com | @BenPopeCST

The Blackhawks were the home team in Game 3 for the first time in the play­off qual­i­fy­ing se­ries against the Oil­ers, mean­ing that — in ad­di­tion to red sweaters and Jim Cor­neli­son’s recorded na­tional an­thems — they en­joyed last change.

That al­lowed coach Jeremy Col­li­ton to con­trol the line and pair­ing matchups.

The Hawks will be con­sid­ered the home team Fri­day in Game 4, too, mak­ing the de­ci­sions Col­li­ton made par­tic­u­larly in­sight­ful to an­a­lyze.

On the lineup front en­ter­ing Game 3, Col­li­ton per­ma­nently moved Pa­trick Kane onto the Kirby Dach-Alex DeBrin­cat line and away from the Dy­lan Strome-Alex Ny­lan­der line, a change that be­gan to hap­pen dur­ing Game 2.

And in terms of matchups, Col­li­ton mainly keyed on forc­ing the Oil­ers’ two su­per­stars — Con­nor Mc­David and Leon Drai­saitl — to go up against the Hawks’ own best two lines.

“[It’s] just nice to have a free look at who’s com­ing and try to put guys in a good sit­u­a­tion,” Col­li­ton said Thurs­day. “Mc­David and Drai­saitl are play­ing half the even-strength min­utes al­most, so it’s go­ing to need a full team ef­fort to de­fend them. We’re pay­ing at­ten­tion who’s on the ice, but it’s too big a job for one group to do.”

Col­li­ton fre­quently sent out the Jonathan Toews line with Brandon Saad and Do­minik Kuba­lik to counter Drai­saitl’s line with Kailer Ya­mamoto and An­dreas Athana­siou.

Col­li­ton also of­ten de­ployed the new Dach line to slow down Mc­David’s line with Ryan Nu­gent-Hop­kins and Josh Archibald.

In Games 1 and 2, when Oil­ers coach Dave Tip­pett had last change, he of­ten tried to get the Drai­saitl and Mc­David lines out against the Hawks’ weaker fourth line.

“It helps any­time we get the home-ice ad­van­tage or last change,” Saad said. “You can pick and choose your matchups . . . It’s a strat­egy the coach can use, us­ing our depth and us­ing our play­ers the way he wants to, and it paid off in the end there.”

NOTE: Oil­ers for­ward Tyler En­nis is “out in­def­i­nitely” with an undis­closed in­jury, coach Dave Tip­pett said Thurs­day. Tip­pett also gave no up­date on de­fense­man

Adam Lars­son, who sur­pris­ingly missed Game 3. En­nis was helped off the ice dur­ing the sec­ond pe­riod Wed­nes­day, un­able to put weight on his right leg, after Kirby Dach crushed him into the boards. Caleb Jones was Lars­son’s re­place­ment in Game 3, while ei­ther Joakim Ny­gard or Pa­trick

Rus­sell should step in for En­nis in Game 4.

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