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Quenneville shakes up Blackhawks lines again

by Shawn P. Roarke

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has never been shy about shaking up how he deploys his players. The bright lights of the Stanley Cup Playoffs aren't going to change his ways, it seems.

Judging from the morning skate, the Blackhawks will have a new look up front in Game 4 of the Western Conference Second Round series Friday against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, RDS, TSN). Chicago leads the best-of-7 series 2-1.

Friday, Chicago's morning skate featured forward lines completely different from those that started Game 3, a 4-0 victory by the Wild.

"All we can really do is prepare the way we had [the lines on Friday morning] and we'll see what happens," said center Ben Smith, who is playing the wing on a line centered by Jonathan Toews. "I think I have played with everyone this season, so it makes it a little easier. We're always prepared for that because that is the way it is. It keeps us guessing, keeps us in the game and keeps us involved."

The players understand being taken out of their comfort zones is a message from their coach, one which needs to be heeded immediately.

"I think he wants more spark from each line," said Bryan Bickell, who remains to the left of Toews in the new setup. "Last game wasn't the game we were looking for."

The lines weren't just switched around for Friday, forward Kris Versteeg was removed from the rotation, replaced by Jeremy Morin. Versteeg, Morin and Bollig have been rotating in and out on a fourth line that has struggled to make an impact in this series.

"Lot of variables sometimes to make decisions like that," Quenneville said. "[It's] guys pushing [that] we feel on a given night could have a better opportunity with him in the lineup. Some nights, whether you've got a veteran guy or young guy, it's how they're going to respond to the test.

"I look back over the last couple of years in the playoffs, [we've] had some guys who didn't get a chance to play, out there every day, every game. Veteran guys as well. You have to put yourself in a position to be ready to come in and make a difference when you do. That makes us a better team. Those guys, we need their enthusiasm. We expect these guys to come right back in and not miss a beat."

One player who won't be helping out soon is center Andrew Shaw, who is out with a lower-body injury. Quenneville said Friday that Shaw has not skated since being injured in Game 1.

Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson did not take part in the morning skate, but Quenneville said the veteran was taking his option and would be good for Game 4.

The only expected change on the blue line is Nick Leddy returning to action, replacing Sheldon Brookbank, who played in Leddy's place in Game 3.

No matter how the lineup ends up looking, the Blackhawks say they know they need to be better than they were in Game 3. They have an opportunity to grab a stranglehold on this series with a victory and they prefer not to see it wasted.

"We have to do what we do best and, hopefully, that puts us in a good spot," Smith said.

Here are the projected lineups:


Bryan Bickell - Jonathan Toews - Ben Smith

Brandon Saad - Marcus Kruger - Patrick Kane

Patrick Sharp - Michal Handzus - Marian Hossa

Brandon Bollig - Joakim Nordstrom - Jeremy Morin

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Niklas Hjalmarsson - Johnny Oduya

Nick Leddy - Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford

Antti Raanta


Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Nino Niederreiter - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle

Matt Cooke - Erik Haula - Justin Fontaine

Dany Heatley - Kyle Brodziak - Cody McCormick

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon

Clayton Stoner - Keith Ballard

Ilya Bryzgalov

John Curry

Scratched: Mike Rupp, Stephane Veilleux, Carson McMillan, Jake Dowell, Nate Prosser, Jonathon Blum

Injured: Matt Moulson (lower body), Jason Zucker (quad), Darcy Kuemper (upper body), Josh Harding (illness), Niklas Backstrom (abdominal)

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