At Tuesday's practice, Blackhawks coach Trent Yawney experimented with Michael Holmqvist on the top line with center Michal Handzus and right wing Martin Havlat. "Obviously he's a skilled player and the other two are pretty skilled, so hopefully he can complement them a little bit," Yawney said. "He's got great speed and a great sense for the game."
Yawney will decide Thursday whether Holmqvist will stay on the 1st line. C/LW Bryan Smolinski is the other leading candidate for top line duty. "I've had Smolinski there; I might have someone else there. It depends on what [Nashville's] lines are as well," Yawney said.
The Blackhawks other line combinations Tuesday included Denis Arkhipov centering Smolinski and Radim Vrbata; Patrick Sharp centering Rene Bourque and Martin Lapointe; and recent free agent signee Jeff Hamilton centering the 4th line for Tony Salmelainen, Reed Low and Adam Burish. Winger Matt Keith was an extra forward with the 3rd line unit.
Yawney said he was happy with the makeup of his 4th line because it "has a little bit of everything." Hamilton and Salmelainen both possess great speed; Low offers toughness; Matt Keith has grit; and Adam Burish brings energy.
Keeping cool: It's hard to argue with a league-best 7-1 preseason record, but Yawney says he'd like to see his team improve its poise -- especially heading into Nashville Thursday for the season opener against Darcy Hordichuk, Jordin Tootoo and the Predators.
"The key against them is limiting turnovers and staying out of the penalty box," Yawney said. "The two guys that have basically beat us in the past aren't the Sullivans and Kariyas, it's Hordichuk and Tootoo and those guys because we become unglued when they do their thing, and they're good at what they do.
"They're a good hockey team, but I feel that if we play smart then we're up to the challenge."