- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
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Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville adjusted quickly to Daniel Carcillo’s injury in the season opener by placing Brandon Saad on the top line. But Quenneville has had to do a lot more shuffling of lines with the injuries suffered by Bolland, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa in the past month and a half.
If the Blackhawks do have a full deck to play with Sunday, here are some ideas of what the lines may look like going forward the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs.
The first line will certainly continue to be Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Saad. The line has produced all season. Hossa, who is third on the team with 14 goals, is now getting back into a groove and has played five consecutive games since missing six games with an upper-body injury. Toews has been stellar all season and is tied for the team lead with 20 goals and is second with 41 points. Saad has emerged as the season has gone along and has put himself into the Calder Trophy with 23 points in his rookie season.
The second line will likely be Patrick Kane, Bolland and Sharp. The line was together throughout the season’s first 24 games, until Sharp suffered an upper-body injury. Quenneville has voiced his support for Bolland as the second-line center despite fans’ criticisms.
Sharp missed 14 games with an upper-body injury and has now been back for two games. He said Friday he was still finding his rhythm again and should eventually give the line another offensive punch. Kane has been dominant all season and leads the Blackhawks with 46 points. Bolland has dealt with a few injuries this season. He has struggled with faceoffs (45 percent won). He could be replaced by Sharp on faceoffs in the future. Sharp has won 13-of-17 faceoffs in the past two games.
The third line will definitely include Viktor Stalberg and Bryan Bickell on the wings. They’ve been there all season, and both have been productive recently. Stalberg and Bickell combined for four goals and three assists in the last five games.
Quenneville has a couple options at center. Michal Handzus, who was recently acquired from the San Jose Sharks, has started as the third-line center recently, but Quenneville also used Andrew Shaw there late into Friday’s game with the Detroit Red Wings. Shaw had spent most of the season on the third line before Handzus arrived. The main advantage for using Handzus on the third line is his faceoff ability. He has won 61.9 percent of faceoffs in five games with the Blackhawks. Shaw has a 43.4 percent this season.
The fourth line could have a few options. Winger Michael Frolik and center Marcus Kruger can be expected there. Both have bounced around to fill holes due to injuries, but Quenneville has preferred to use them on the fourth line most of the year. If Handzus does center the third line, Shaw could be moved to a wing on the fourth line. If Shaw is on the third line, Handzus also has wing experience.
When the team is completely healthy, Brandon Bollig, Daniel Carcillo and Jamal Mayers will likely be healthy scratches, but they give Quenneville a few more physical options on the fourth line if needed.