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Blackhawks to split Toews, Kane to start Game 1

Wednesday, 06.12.2013 / 1:43 PM

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer / Stanley Cup Final series blog

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Stanley Cup Final series blog
Blackhawks to split Toews, Kane to start Game 1

CHICAGO -- After combining on the double-overtime goal that put the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will be on separate lines at the start of Game 1 against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).

Toews will center Chicago's first line, with Patrick Sharp on his left and Marian Hossa on his right. Kane will be back on the right side of Michal Handzus, with Bryan Bickell on the left wing. Toews, Kane and Bickell were a line for the second half of Game 4 and all of Game 5 of the Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings.

"For the most part, I think we've had a lot of balance throughout the season with myself and [Toews] on different lines," Kane said. "You look at that top line with Hossa, Sharp and Toews -- they don't get much better than that. I think it's about balance."

It's also about matchups. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville likely will try to do what he can to get at least one loaded-up top line (Toews, Sharp and Hossa) away from Boston's top defense pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg as often as he can.

That could prove to be quite difficult considering no one in the series is expected to play more minutes than Chara, who will be on the ice for roughly half of each game. Even if Quenneville successfully frees his top line to play some Chara-free minutes, Kane, Handzus and Bickell probably will see plenty of the Bruins' towering captain and Seidenberg.

The good thing is Kane is comfortable playing with Handzus, but he did admit his approach has to change when he plays with him as opposed to playing with Toews or Dave Bolland, who was his center for most of the regular season.

"When I'm playing with Handzus I can come back a little bit more and pick up the puck," Kane said. "With [Toews], he's always the first guy back in the [defensive zone] so you pretty much just have to worry about your wing position. They are very similar players so you don't have to change too much."

Going back to get the puck could serve Kane well against the Bruins because it will allow him to enter the zone with speed. It also will force him to get the puck, which was a problem he had to overcome against the Kings.

He did, of course. Kane had a hat trick in Game 5, including the double-OT winner off a 2-on-1 with Toews.

"Playing with Handzus, we've talked about that, what we want to do when I curl back to get the puck," Kane said. "We're both on the same page. We may readjust it before the game, but nothing too much will change."

The Blackhawks will have two significant changes in their bottom-six forward group. Bolland is moving up to start Game 1 centering the third line with Brandon Saad on his left and Andrew Shaw on the right.

Shaw had been the third-line center, but he had Viktor Stalberg on his right side. Stalberg will be a healthy scratch for Game 1, and Brandon Bollig will play for the first time since Game 2 of the conference quarterfinals against the Minnesota Wild on May 5. He'll start on the fourth line, with Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik.

When Bollig played in the regular season he often was on a line with Kruger and Frolik.

"All year long that line when they did play had a purpose," Quenneville said. "I felt that several shifts they always seemed to be in the offensive end at the end of the shift and controlled a lot of the play. You're comfortable with [Bollig] in your own end, faceoffs as well. He's got an overall game that we like and I think he can bring an element to our team."

That element is physicality. Bollig knows his role and how important it may be against the Bruins.

"You want to make your presence known early and that's why I'm in the lineup, to provide that presence," Bollig told NHL.com. "I'm going to try to approach it like every other game and hopefully the nerves don't play a part in it. Hopefully I can make my mark on the game. It's no secret that they're big, tough and strong, so we're looking to maybe counter that and provide that presence of our own."

Here is how the Blackhawks expect to line up for Game 1:

Patrick Sharp - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Bryan Bickell - Michal Handzus - Patrick Kane

Brandon Saad - Dave Bolland - Andrew Shaw

Brandon Bollig - Marcus Kruger - Michael Frolik

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Nick Leddy - Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford

Ray Emery

Scratched: Viktor Stalberg, Jamal Mayers, Ben Smith, Daniel Carcillo, Sheldon Brookbank, Ryan Stanton

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