Blackhawks play musical chairs on top line

CRAIG ELLINGSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

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Could the third time be the charm on the Chicago Blackhawks top line?

Ever since left-winger Patrick Sharp went down with a knee iunjury March 20, the defending Stanley Cup champions have been cycling a few guys through his spot alongside Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

The current flavour of the week is Brian Bickell, promoted to the No.-1 unit by head coach Joel Quenneville following failed experiments using Viktor Stalberg and Troy Brouwer. After all, the Blackhawks had scored just four times in their three games prior to Friday night’s Central Division clash with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

And the change seems to have paid off, as Bicknell scored late in the third period.

Chicago, currently sitting in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, is obviously trying their damnedest to secure their ticket to the post-season by — what else — winning. They did just that by downing the Jackets 4-3 in a shootout.

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Winning games in bunches goes a long way these days in battles for a playoff spot. And that’s what the Carolina Hurricanes have done to roar back into the hunt as the regular season nears conclusion. Heading into Saturday night’s game in Uniondale, N.Y., against the Islanders, the Hurricanes — who have five dates left on their regular-season schedule — have won six of their last eight games to sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, three points behind the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Rangers.

It’s a critical weekend for all teams jostling for playoff position as nine points separate the Montreal Canadiens in sixth place from the Toronto Maple Leafs in 10th.

And the Isles game is only the beginning of a slam-bang couple of days for Carolina — on Sunday, the Hurricanes host the Sabres in one doozy of a four-pointer.

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It usually says something when a pitcher is tagged as the opening-day starter — like, he’s good. So when Cleveland Indians ace Fausto Carmona took the mound Friday in the team’s season-opener against the visiting Chicago White Sox, likely no one was expecting an all-out attack.

Carmona lasted four batters into the fourth inning, giving up 10 runs — all earned — and 11 hits in a 15-10 Cleveland loss. Carmona now owns the dubious distinction of being the first pitcher ever to give up 10 runs in three innings or less in a club’s opener. There’s a reason the Indians are a 125/1 longshot to win the World Series this year (ahead of only the Kansas City Royals at 150/1 and the Pittsburgh Pirates at 200/1).


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