By Adam Hoge-
UNITED CENTER (CBS) New series. New opponent. New lines.
At least that’s what it looked like at Tuesday’s Blackhawks practice at the United Center.
Despite dispatching the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings in five games, head coach Joel Quenneville shook up the lines dramatically in practice Tuesday, one day before the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup Final opener against the Boston Bruins.
The most notable change was that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were not together, despite their success on the same line in Games 4 and 5 against the Kings. Instead, the top line consisted of Toews, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa.
Another big change was the presence of Brandon Bollig on the fourth line with Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik. Bollig has only played in three postseason games this year, all of which came in the opening series against the Minnesota Wild.
Asked if the lines will look the same when the puck drops for Game 1 Wednesday night, Quenneville said “there’s a likelihood or probability it could happen.” That’s Quenneville-speak for it is happening.
So why Bollig against the Bruins?
“I think just providing that physical presence and what I’ve done throughout my professional career is provide that security for some of our more skilled guys and hopefully let them play their game without fear,” Bollig said.
But with Bollig on the fourth line, Viktor Stalberg was back to wearing a white sweater on the fifth line, which he donned early in the Western Conference Semifinals against the Detroit Red Wings when he was benched for the first two games of the series.
“I’ve been doing what I’m being asked to and if they want more toughness in this first game, so be it,” a frustrated Stalberg said.
But Stalberg actually hasn’t done a whole lot since returning to the lineup after his first benching. He’s a -3 since then with just two assists.
“You’re going to go through struggles, but at the same time, it’s tough when you’re only playing eight minutes a night to do something,” he said.
Line changes from series-to-series are no surprise as teams try to match up against each other. For the Blackhawks, putting together a line to matchup against the Bruins’ highly productive line of David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic is important. The three of them have combined for a total of 51 points in the postseason.
And Quenneville is also very aware of 6-9 defenseman Zdeno Chara and Selke Award finalist Patrice Bergeron, which may be why he decided to split up Kane and Toews.
“It’s balance and something we’ll look at,” Quenneville said. “Sometimes that can evolve over the course of the series, but that might be one of the reasons.”
Maybe the biggest surprise, however, was that Bryan Bickell wasn’t on either of the power play units after establishing himself as a solid option in front of the net against the Kings.
Here’s how the top four forwards lines looked in practice Tuesday:
- Patrick Sharp – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
- Bryan Bickell – Michal Handzus – Patrick Kane
- Brandon Saad – Dave Bolland – Andrew Shaw
- Brandon Bollig – Marcus Kruger – Michael Frolik
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, Blackhawks, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHoge and read more of his columns here.