Hoge On The Hawks: All Lines Up In the Air Vs Red Wings
By Adam Hoge-
JOHNNY’S ICE HOUSE (CBS) Just two days after it looked like Dave Bolland was set for a return to the third line, the center was back on the Blackhawks’ second line at Monday’s practice.
The move came as a result of Michal Handzus getting a “maintenance day” (as head coach Joel Quenneville put it), but it further clouded what the Blackhawks’ lines will look like when their Western Conference Semifinals series with the Detroit Red Wings starts Wednesday at the United Center.
Quenneville expects Handzus to be back at practice Tuesday, but the second and third lines are not the only groupings with question marks. In fact, all four lines could be subject to changes despite the Blackhawks getting through the first round in just five games.
On the top line, Brandon Saad was back at the left wing Monday after wearing a white jersey (usually reserved for healthy scratches) at Saturday’s practice. There was some speculation Bryan Bickell could replace him on the No. 1 line after scoring three goals in the first round.
Instead, Bickell was back in his familiar spot on the third line Monday next to center Andrew Shaw. Standing on the opposite wing, however, was not Viktor Stalberg, who wore a white jersey for the second straight practice. Ben Smith lined up on the right wing in his place.
Quenneville confirmed that Stalberg is healthy, but when asked if he would play Wednesday night, the head coach would only say: “We’ll see.”
The guess here is that Quenneville is just sending Stalberg a message and he will indeed play in Game 1. Smith only saw action in one game this season — the regular season finale when Quenneville kept a good number of the regulars out.
But even if Stalberg does play, it could be on the fourth line if Handzus is healthy. With Bolland back, it seems likely Andrew Shaw will get kicked out to the wing and with Stalberg apparently in the doghouse, it’s likely he’d be the one to drop a line.
At least at Monday’s practice, the fourth line consisted of Daniel Carcillo, Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik.
Crawford Owns The Wings
On paper, the Blackhawks matchup better against the Red Wings than the San Jose Sharks for a number of reasons.
For one, the Wings are a much less physical team than the Sharks and the Blackhawks appear to have more than enough talent to control the skilled game that is likely to be played over the next two weeks.
The regular season numbers back that up as the Blackhawks have seven wins in a row over the Wings and goaltender Corey Crawford has an incredible 11-2-0 record against Detroit.
“Maybe sometimes a goalie might matchup better against some teams,” Crawford said Monday. “I don’t know what it is exactly. I hope it continues.”
The Blackhawks know that the regular season records can be thrown out in what promises to be an intense playoff series.
And don’t think the players are ignoring the fact that their Original Six rival is moving to the Eastern Conference next season.
“We’re going to play them once in a while down the road, but not as many times,” Bickell said. “It would definitely feel good to finish out on top.”
For more Blackhawks coverage throughout the playoffs, follow Adam on Twitter (@AdamHoge).