CHICAGO -- After grinding out a Western Conference Semifinal win in seven games against the Detroit Red Wings, the Chicago Blackhawks returned to practice Friday prior to the start of a conference final against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday at United Center (5 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville juggled his forward lines for the workout from what he used in the 2-1 overtime victory in Game 7 against Detroit and appears to be looking for more size up front by adding 6-foot-4, 233-pound power forward Bryan Bickell as the left wing for 6-2, 208-pound Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews.
“I think he’s earned that opportunity [with] how he’s played,” Quenneville said of Bickell, who’s one of Chicago’s top scorers this postseason with five goals and one assist. “Not just his production offensively but physically he’s been engaged and he’s got some speed and he’s had a lot of puck time. When he did get the opportunity [against Detroit] to move up with those guys he did a great job. I think it gives a little more size and presence on that line.”
Quenneville also put 6-1, 210-pound Marian Hossa back on the right wing next to Toews after going with a highly skilled line of Patrick Sharp, Toews and Patrick Kane the last three games against the Red Wings -- all elimination games for Chicago.
That configuration worked, but the Kings present a different obstacle with bigger, more physical defensemen and forwards in front of goalie Jonathan Quick.
“They've got some guys that can score, they have some playmakers … got some guys with size on their lines that can make some plays as well,” Quenneville said. “They make you play a hard game.”
The new top line also created a familiar second line with 6-1, 199-pound Sharp at left wing and 5-11, 181-pound Kane back on the right side of 6-5, 215-pound center Michal Handzus.
“We’ll see how everything goes,” Hossa said. “There are going to be some switches. I felt pretty good today with Jonathan and Bryan. We’ll see how we’re going to start. [Bickell’s] one of our biggest guys. He did an excellent job in the series, too, against the Red Wings.”
The third and fourth lines were the same as Game 7 against Detroit, with rookie Brandon Saad continuing to play in Bickell’s more familiar spot at left wing with Andrew Shaw at center and Viktor Stalberg on the right wing.
Marcus Kruger was back at left wing on the fourth line -- a unit he centered most of the season -- next to gritty two-way center Dave Bolland and opposite Michael Frolik on the right wing. It’s a bottom trio that can make plays at either end of the rink like a second or third line.
Here's how the Blackhawks lined up in practice Friday:
Bryan Bickell – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp – Michal Handzus – Patrick Kane
Brandon Saad – Andrew Shaw – Viktor Stalberg
Marcus Kruger – Dave Bolland – Michael Frolik
Duncan Keith – Brent Seabrook
Niklas Hjalmarsson – Johnny Oduya
Nick Leddy - Michal Rozsival