Chicago Blackhawks: What to Make from Tweaks to the Lineup in Practice
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There are a lot of ways that one could read into the practice line shakeup. However, before forecasting any drastic changes, one should remember the circumstances of Saturday's skate.
According to a tweet by ESPNChicago.com's Scott Powers Saturday, Quenneville sent the following forward lines out at Johnny's Icehouse:
Line 1: Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Ben Smith
Line 2: Patrick Kane, Michal Handzus, Patrick Sharp
Line 3: Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw, Dave Bolland
Line 4: Marcus Kruger, Daniel Carcillo, Michael Frolik
Viktor Stalberg was on an extra line with Jamal Mayers and Brandon Bollig, while Calder Trophy finalist Brandon Saad skated with the defensemen. Hmmmm...
What do we make of this? Let's just say that I don't think Quenneville will scratch Stalberg and Saad in Game 1 of the Western Conference semis.
First off, it looks as if Bolland is going to be ready to play whenever Chicago's second-round tilt gets underway. If we take Quenneville at his word in Powers' blog, both Bolland and Ray Emery are set to rejoin the lineup.
Bolland may be charged with centering the third line, or he may replace Handzus on the second. It's a bit early to tell how Quenneville wants to set those lines up. After all, he isn't even sure if the 'Hawks will draw San Jose or Detroit in the next round.
I'd love to see Smith on the ice. On the fourth line, that is. It's hard to imagine Quenneville messing with the top line at this stage of the game, though anything's possible.
With a bit of downtime before Round 2 gets underway, this could be a gentle kick in the pants to some players from whom Quenneville expects better. The targets Saturday were Saad and Stalberg.
Quenneville explained his moves to Jay Cohen of the Associated Press: "A couple of the guys, we wanted to have a look-see. See how it goes."
After a five-game series win over the Minnesota Wild, Quenneville wanted a more focused and intense group on the ice. Based on what he told Cohen after practice, he got it: "We want to get sharp. Hopefully we can elevate our pace of our team game. I loved today's practice. I thought that was the best we've practiced since the playoffs began."
Monday morning will bring an opponent for the Blackhawks, be it the Sharks or Red Wings. The lineup at Quenneville's next practice should give us all a better idea of how he'll start things off in the conference semifinals.
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