Hawks practice as full team, arrange lines

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
3:01
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks did something Tuesday they haven't been able to do for almost a month.

They practiced as a full team. All 15 forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders were healthy and participated in the hour-long practice at Johnny's IceHouse West.

Toews
Kane
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews joined his teammates on the ice Tuesday for the first time since suffering an upper-body injury on March 30. Patrick Kane also participated in his first full team practice since his injury on March 19. He had participated in a team morning skate last week.

"I thought, at least for me being out there the first time, the pace was pretty high -- seems like everyone's excited about what's going to happen here going forward here in the playoffs," Kane said. "It was nice to get out there, skate with the team in a real practice, and even nicer to have one [Wednesday]."

With everyone on the ice, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville unveiled his probable lines to begin the playoffs, and there were some changes.

Quenneville placed Kris Versteeg, Toews and Brandon Saad together on the top line. Patrick Sharp, Michal Handzus and Marian Hossa skated together on the second line. Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw and Kane comprised the third line. Quenneville stuck with his usual fourth line of Brandon Bollig, Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith.

Sharp, Toews and Hossa played together on a line for a bulk of the season, and Kane was mostly on the second line. Versteeg and Saad have bounced everywhere from the first to third lines this season.

Quenneville said he is looking for balance in the four lines.

"I thought all the lines have comparable ingredients with the ability to score and play without the puck, as well," Quenneville said. "We also had that continuity of at least a couple of guys who are familiar with one another. Whether you revert back or you like the matchup, even in the course of the game, you can always move one or two guys around without really rearranging too much; having that flexibility, and some guys can play both sides and go in the middle, as well. Every game would be different, but right now you like the balance."

Kane has played with Shaw and Bickell before. Kane and Bickell shared a line for much of the playoffs last season and were both essential to the team's Stanley Cup run.

Kane believes that even though Bickell and Shaw are physical players and could give him protection against the St. Louis Blues, they also need to stick to their games.

"To be honest with you, I think playing with them two guys, you want to make sure you're matching their work ethic because they're always going to be working hard," Kane said. "At the same time, we want to play smart, play good defensively, make sure we're not giving anything up.

"Sometimes you go into a series and you think a little too much about the physical play or what's going to happen and it throws you off. I think for us, we've just got to go out there, play hockey the way we know how to play, and not worry about all that other stuff, whether it happens after the whistle or during the play. I think in the past we've maybe gotten caught up in that a little bit."

Quenneville is optimistic that the line of Versteeg, Toews and Saad can be productive for the Blackhawks.

"We feel [Saad is] capable of playing against top guys," Quenneville said. "He's played with Jonny a lot the last couple years. [Versteeg] as well has played in some big situations. We'll see how that all works out -- certainly has the capability of working well together. [Versteeg] did play a little bit with [Toews and Saad] there recently. That line looked pretty good together."
Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Sharp
PTS GOALS AST +/-
78 34 44 13
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Sharp 34
AssistsD. Keith 55
+/-M. Hossa 28
GAAC. Crawford 2.26