DeBrincat’s play-making ability helping top line produce

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Chicago Blackhawks right wing Alex DeBrincat plays against the Nashville Predators in the third period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. The Predators won 3-2. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

by Scott King

Will he make the team? How long will he play up with Chicago? Will he get a chance to play on the first line?

For now, those questions are in Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat’s rearview mirror. The 19-year-old, 5-foot-7 winger’s 12 goals are the second most among league rookies.

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More importantly, the Michigan native is helping a line that badly needed helping.

The trio of Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik had the potential to be one of the NHL’s biggest threats.

It should have been nearly impossible for other teams to match up against a line with three big bodies, two of which (Saad and Toews) could play incredibly well defensively, one with serious scoring potential (Saad) and one that crashes the net and goes to the corners like a wrecking ball (Panik).

But, to many’s surprise, after a stellar start that saw Brandon Saad snag a hat trick on opening night and five goals in the team’s first four games, the top line got mighty cold.

Enter Alex DeBrincat. DeBrincat had logged most of his minutes this season playing opposite Patrick Sharp on the Hawks’ third line. His vision, speed and play-making ability seemed to deserve a shot among the team’s top six forwards.

After sending Richard Panik to the fourth line, who was eventually a healthy scratch in Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime win vs. Florida, DeBrincat was able to play a couple games on Chicago’s first line.

“I think there’s a lot of guys who deserve this spot on the top line,” said DeBrincat Monday at practice, following his first stint with the first line in Sunday’s 3-1 win over Arizona. Him and his linemates didn’t record a point in the contest, but had several good looks.

“It’s been good,” DeBrincat said. “I thought we played alright. I think I need to do a little bit better. I think I can make a few more plays and maybe play a little bit more simple and not throw the puck away too much. I think other than that it’s going pretty well though.”

Alex certainly didn’t seem to be throwing the puck away in Tuesday’s game after finally helping Toews and Saad establish some chemistry again by¬†contributing a primary and secondary assist on both of their goals.

Hockey Heaven

At the official ribbon cutting ceremony Monday at MB Financial Ice Arena, the Blackhawks’ new state of the art practice and community facility at 1801 W. Jackson Blvd., team President and CEO John McDonough called the 125,000 square-foot arena “hockey heaven.”

“There’s still some areas of the facility you don’t really know too much about because it’s so big,” Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane said. “As far as our locker room and the facilities upstairs: the gym and shooting area and the rink, it’s becoming pretty much more like home here.

“It’s a great spot, it’s fun to come here every day. I think the guys are a little more excited when they can come here and practice and work on your game a little bit when we do have practice. I think it’s good all around.”

When told the rink even had a Dunkin Donuts in front, Kane responded: “You probably shouldn’t have told us that.”

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