Andrew Brunette fitting in fine on Blackhawks’ top line
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org March 22, 2012 10:42PM
Chicago Blackhawks Headshots
Updated: April 24, 2012 8:21AM
Andrew Brunette is in the right places, making the right reads and making the right plays unlike before. And he’s doing it in the spot the Blackhawks envisioned when they signed him in the offseason.
It has taken Brunette some time, but the veteran winger is complementing Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa well on the top line. They haven’t converted all their chances, but their newfound chemistry has been a boon for the Hawks, who are still without Jonathan Toews.
“I’m playing more minutes than I did at different times during the season,” said Brunette, who has played on every line this season after signing a one-year, $2 million deal to ideally help the top two lines and the power play.
“A lot of times over the course of the season, you’re playing a shift here, a period here or game here and not really getting a sense of chemistry. So it’s been a nice stretch to kind of get comfortable with each other. I don’t think we’ve been rewarded for all the opportunities that we’ve created, but we’ve played very well.”
Getting the time to finally create chemistry has been the difference for Brunette. Coach Joel Quenneville always has switched lines often, perhaps more so than Brunette remembers when they were together in Colorado. But Quenneville has acknowledged that giving Brunette more minutes to adjust was critical.
“Bruno is one of the guys who the more familiar he becomes with their habits and each other, they can read off each other,” Quenneville said. “He anticipates where they can be, and he puts it in those right areas where they can handle it. ... That line is doing a nice job.”
Since being put with Hossa and Kane on Feb. 29 against the Maple Leafs, Brunette has taken at least 20 shifts per game, while notching two goals and three assists. Kane and Hossa, meanwhile, have combined for 11 goals and 13 assists since then.
“It’s hard when you just jump in for a shift here or there or even a game and the next night you’re playing with somebody else to gain any mojo together as a line,” said Brunette, who is four goals shy of scoring at least 15 for the 12th consecutive season.
“I was kind of the guy who would bump around. For me, it was important to get a good idea of where they are on the ice. They play a little different style than I’m used to playing, so that’s always an adjustment to make.’’