Blackhawks tweak lines, power play combinations at practice
It appears Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville might stick with a slight change in his forward lines he put together during Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinal series Monday against the Detroit Red Wings.
The Blackhawks lost 3-1 at Joe Louis Arena and trail 2-1 heading into Game 4 on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS). But Quenneville saw something he liked from flip-flopping his top two left wings, rookie Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp.
Saad dropped to the second line to play with center Dave Bolland and right wing Patrick Kane, and Sharp moved up to play the left side of the top line with center Jonathan Toews and right wing Marian Hossa.
They stayed that way for line rushes during practice Wednesday at United Center, but Quenneville was still non-committal, officially, when asked about it afterward.
"We'll see on the lines," he said. "I know that it's something we'll talk about going into the game."
One thing he wasn't as vague about was his team's intensity and drive in the third period of Game 3 after falling behind 2-0 in the second.
"I thought we had a real good response in the third period," Quenneville said. "I think [we] had the purpose and the level of intensity that's necessary. I think that's where we've got to be at and I think we've got to have all the respect in the world for our opponent. We're the ones that are going to have to win the series, because you know they're not going to give you anything."
Quenneville and his assistants also appeared to tweak the power play, which continues to struggle and went 0-for-4 in Game 4. They broke up the all-star unit comprised of Toews, Kane, Sharp, Hossa and Duncan Keith, and tried to balance the talent between the two units.
Kane and Toews worked up front on one unit -- with Andrew Shaw and Dave Bolland subbing out for each other -- and the points were manned by Brent Seabrook and a rotation of Nick Leddy and Michael Rozsival. The other unit featured Sharp, Saad and Bickell up front and the points patrolled by Keith and Hossa.
"We're just looking for more balance on the units," Quenneville said. "And hopefully we get some production."
Forward Viktor Stalberg said he's a little sore but fine after crashing headfirst into the boards early in Game 3 trying to deliver a hit. After the Red Wings player ducked underneath Stalberg, his head hit the boards and snapped back awkwardly. A still-frame photo of the impact is making its way around the Internet, mostly via Twitter, and Stalberg said he has seen it.
"It looks bad," he told NHL.com Wednesday. "It's one of those things that happens sometimes. You get unlucky and lose balance at a bad moment. I'm just happy I'm alive today, to be honest. I've gotten hit in the back and pushed up against there, but this was pretty high speed and just straight ahead. That was scary, but I feel pretty good today."
The good news is he actually remembers the whole thing. After leaving the ice gingerly, he returned to the game and didn't appear to have lingering effects.
"Yeah, I never blacked out or anything," Stalberg said. "I was fine. I just was a little worried about my neck at first. I didn't want to move, but I kind of felt that it was OK and went off the ice and did whatever we had to do to make sure nothing happened with my head. It seemed to be all good, so it was just a matter of playing through the pain."