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Forward lines among questions Hawks face

by Brian Hedger /
CHICAGOJoel Quenneville has a knack for pushing the right buttons when it comes to mixing and matching players on forward lines, so it's anybody's guess what his lines will look like to start the 2010-11 season.

About the only sure things are the top three centers, with captain Jonathan Toews on the first line, Patrick Sharp on the second line and Dave Bolland on the third line.

For the final two games of the Stanley Cup Final against Philadelphia, Quenneville split up Toews and winger Patrick Kane – a tandem that is used to playing together on the first line.

It netted good results, and Quenneville said during Friday's training camp media day that it's not out of the question to expect the star tandem to start the season split up again.

"It could be kind of the way it ended up at the end of the year," he said. "You know, you've got (Toews), (Tomas Kopecky) and (Marian Hossa), and then you've got Sharpie and Kaner. You're missing a winger there, whether it's (Bryan Bickell) or whether it's (Victor Stalberg) -- and we've got some other pieces as well. There are always surprises in camp that are going to jump out at you, and hopefully things will be clear at the end of it."

Kane didn't seem too concerned about it, either way.

"If I'm with Taser, that's great,” he said. "I think we have a lot of chemistry and kind of feed off each other the way we play. But if I'm with other guys, that's great too."

Brouwer puffed like 'Buff': The trade that sent hulking 6-foot-4, 257-pound Dustin Byfuglien to Atlanta left a major role to fill on the Hawks, who took off in the playoffs once "Big Buff" started camping in front of the net.

The Hawks are likely going to fill that role with a committee that includes 6-2, 214-pound Troy Brouwer, Kopecky (6-2, 203) and Bickell (6-4, 223). Brouwer joked that he ate a little extra this summer in anticipation of replacing Byfuglien.

"I tried to put on a little weight on, so I could look like him," he joked. "But that is going to be a big part of my role. There is a void now with 'Buff' gone, and it's going to be looked upon to guys like me, Kopecky, Bickell ... to make sure we get in front and continue to do what 'Buff' was doing good last year."

Scott adds even more size: Speaking of Byfuglien, one of the new faces in the Hawks locker room just happens to be attached to one of the biggest bodies. John Scott, a Minnesota defenseman/tough guy the Hawks signed as a free agent. 

He is listed at 6-7, 247.

Some think he will be asked to stand in front of the net and block the vision of opposing goaltenders like Byfuglien did, but Scott is more known at this point for being a standout scrapper. Scott was quick to say he won't be able to replace all of Byfulglien's skills, but did say "Big Buff" had a bit of good news for him.

"It's funny; I was skating with him this summer, telling him: 'They're saying I'm going to be the next Byfuglien,'" Scott said. "He said, 'Well that's good for you. You only have to get in one fight this year.'"

Scott not expecting festival scrap: Scott was caught a little off-guard when asked Friday whether he'd fight with a fellow Hawks camper at Saturday's sold-out Training Camp Festival.

"I don't think so. I know in Minnesota last year they didn't let us fight in camp, so I don't expect to," he said, drawing a few chuckles. "I don't know. We'll see. You never know. If someone's trying to make a name for himself or something, I'm not going to say 'No;' but we'll see. Good question, though."

Scott and Quenneville are both hoping Scott's overall defensive game develops, rather than him just being the team's designated enforcer.

"I kind of want to do more than that," Scott said. "I want to be more of a stay-at-home fifth or sixth defenseman and go out there and shut down their third and fourth lines.”

Gunning for a better PP: Despite having a wealth of talented offensive players, the Hawks didn't have a dominant power play last season. It's something that Quenneville wants to make a point of emphasis this season.

"We feel with our personnel, we should be better than we were," he said. "Our goal is to be in the top 10 (in the League) and really, objectively, we'd love to be in the top five. I thought our penalty kill from two years ago was a point of emphasis going into last year and we had a real good year in that area. This year, we want to make sure we improve our power play."

One of two mysteries solved: During the Hawks' fan convention, Kane let it slip that he didn't know where the team's now-infamous "title belt” that goes to players with great performances was located.

Kane, who was last spotted with the belt at the Hawks championship parade, said Friday that he's located the belt in the locker room and it should reappear this season.

As for the puck that he shot that got lost in the side of the net as the Cup-clinching goal in Philadelphia, Kane still doesn't know where that went -- though he has some ideas.

"I heard Harry Caray's (steak house) offered some big money for it, and I think people are coming up left and right with fake pucks," he said. "My guess would be either (Ben Eager) or Sharp has it. That's what I believe. Sharpie would never admit it and neither would Eags, but that's my guess."

Does he think one of the Flyers might have grabbed it out of spite – say defenseman Chris Pronger?

"No, I don't," Kane said.

Gearing up for the first sell-out: Saturday's Training Camp Festival is the third of its kind, but first to sell out United Center for a full day of practice drills and scrimmages. Needless to say, Hawks players continue to be amazed at how popular they've become at home.

"The city has got this huge embrace on us and we're so thankful for the fans," Brouwer said. "They wanted this for a long time, and we're glad that we could deliver it to them. I've never heard of having a sold-out practice before in anything, but this city has done it and it's going to be a special thing."

Too much of a good thing: Much has already been made about new goaltender Marty Turco's ability to move the puck out of the defensive zone quickly being a great match for the Hawks' up-tempo offensive style.

Toews, though, has a slight concern about it.

"I'm just hoping Kaner doesn't think he doesn't have to come back over the red line," Toews said, referring to Kane's tendency to cherry pick in the neutral zone.

Turco said he's already heard about Kane's desire to pick up easy scoring chances.

"(Kane) wasn't the one who said, 'When in doubt, just throw it up there and he'll be waiting,'" Turco said, smirking. "Other guys mentioned that."

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