The Elbow staff
PITTSBURGH, PA – According to several eyewitnesses at the Penguins-Blackhawks game on Wednesday evening, an unidentified third forward was sighted on Chicago's second line alongside Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin.
The sighting, and subsequent testimony of fans in attendance, contradicts all game logs and statistics taken this season. No records indicate that the two players have played with anyone else on their line.
A spokesman for the Blackhawks said that the rumours are completely unfounded.
"I can confirm that nobody has occupied that position all season," he said. "Anyone suggesting otherwise is just blowing smoke up these conspiracy theorists."
Despite the organization's unwillingness to confirm the existence of the rumoured third forward, sources described what they saw as having a human head, arms, legs and a Chicago jersey.
"My memory is hazy, and I didn't manage to take a photo of him in time because each time he came and went pretty quickly, but there was definitely someone in a male human form out there with those guys," Blackhawks fan Dave Muir said.
"From what I could tell, he was wearing a helmet like the rest of the guys. He had a number on the back of his jersey as well, just like a normal player, but I don't remember what it was."
"He caught my eye just by being out there. At first I thought he was a defenceman joining the rush, but he kept coming out and playing shifts with the two guys all game."
Other fans have questioned the unusual tactic by head coach Joel Quenneville, saying that adding a third forward into the mix may upset the balance of power between Kane and Panarin.
"You have to wonder why coach Q decided to bring this guy in so late in the season. I thought Kane and Panarin were doing fine on their own."
"As history shows us, they clearly play better without anyone else getting in the way, so I'm hoping the coaching staff is willing to fix the error."
One particular fan in Chicago claims to have found photographs of the third forward in newspaper clippings, including one he provided to The Elbow.
"I've been mostly estranged from my family the past year or so after I kept insisting to everyone that this guy exists," Malcolm Burnside said. "They all think I'm crazy, but I have pictures to prove it.
"Unfortunately they never seem to get him fully in focus, so you can't make out his jersey number, face or any other defining characteristics, but I know he's out there."