After scoring just six goals over the past three games, Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville gave his forward line combinations a new look during Friday afternoon’s practice, separating the Bryan Bickell-Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane trio that was the team’s best late in the 2013 postseason.
If the combinations hold for Saturday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toews will center a line with Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa, who was given the day off, and Kane will join a line with Patrick Sharp and Michal Handzus. Coach Q hopes putting Toews and Kane on different lines will give opposing coaches more to contend with when setting their matchups.
“It gives the other team a lot to be concerned with,” Quenneville said after Friday's practice. “Who do you want to check? Who do you want to play against?”
While the Blackhawks boast one of the deeper groups of forwards in the NHL, and have gotten goals from 12 different players in seven games, the team has started out the young season in the middle of the pack when it comes to scoring, tallying 2.71 goals per game, good for 16th in the league. However, the team believes that it is only a matter of time before the talented offense gets into high gear, and one good game could make all the difference.
“We’ve got a lot of talent in this locker room, so nothing’s going to change there. Scoring just comes from confidence; it comes from getting the results you want and seeing the puck go in,” Toews said. “When that happens, you build off it. You feel that you can play loose and just let things happen. When that starts happening a little more naturally, I think the rest of our game will come along, too.”
Old Friends: When the Toronto Maple Leafs take the ice at the UC Saturday night, one very specific member will likely get the hero’s welcome, at least before game time: Dave Bolland, whom Blackhawks fans last saw tallying the Stanley Cup-winning goal in Boston, returns with his new team after being traded during this past summer’s draft.
After puck drop, however, the defending champs know better than anyone that their former teammate, affectionately nicknamed “The Rat,” will do his best to get under their skin. Not a concern, though, say the Blackhawks.
"His tricks are not going to work against us,” Sharp said on Friday. “We’ve seen them far too many times. But it’s exciting to have him come back, and it will be a special night for him. The Hawks crowd will give him the nice applause that he deserves, but it will be exciting to see him in a different uniform.”
Toews, who as Chicago’s top center will likely get a rat tail for much of Saturday’s proceedings, isn’t worried about his former teammate knowing too many of his tendencies.
"I know all his tricks, too, so it goes both ways," he said.
At the other end of the ice, Blackhawks defenseman Michael Kostka, who skated in 35 games for the Leafs last season, could also be in the lineup, Quenneville said today. The journeyman blueliner said that he would be excited to face his former teammates if given the chance.
“I’m not sure if I’m playing or not, but I hope I do. I always like going up against old friends and old teammates, and trying to stick it to them a little bit,” he said.
Kostka’s only appearance this season was against the Tampa Bay Lightning, another organization that he spent time with in his minor-league days.
“When you’ve played for as many teams as I have, you have a lot of friends in a lot of places. It’s fun to see two or three friends on the other side, or even an entire team.”
News and notes: Corey Crawford will start the game against Toronto in net… Michal Rozsival, who has been battling an illness the past few days, returned to practice on Friday.