Hawks switch up combos in practice

April, 17, 2010

CHICAGO -- New forward line combinations and revamped defense pairings awaited onlookers for the Blackhawks practice Saturday.

Whether or not Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville sticks with the new combos for Sunday night's Game 2 remains to be seen. It could have also been a ruse for Nashville's benefit.

"We'll see on that, what the lines will be tomorrow," said Quenneville.

Stars defensemen Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith were back together and that appears to be a keeper for Sunday.

"With Dunks and Seabs, we'll likely put those guys back together again," said Quenneville. "It's been a while since they've played together, but it's a great tandem. So we expect that to be solid."

Among the forward lines, the No. 2 unit at practice featured Andrew Ladd instead of Patrick Sharp alongside Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Sharp was slotted with Patrick Kane and Dave Bolland.

"It'll be fun," Ladd said of the first-line duty. "Obviously two talented players. I won't change my game much. Just go to the net, get in on the forecheck and try to create havoc around the net."

Fact is, Quenneville changes his lines all the time, so no one gets too worked about it in the Hawks' dressing room.

"We're used to it," said Ladd. "Everyone is used to playing with everyone because we've had a lot of line changes throughout the years."

Predators coach Barry Trotz wasn't surprised to see the Hawks' changes.

"No, no. I have a good idea why," Trotz said. "We'll do what we do. There's adjustments. I don't expect the Hawks to change their whole system or anything. They're going to make some adjustments in terms of lines and maybe matchups, D pairings, all those types of things. And I'm going to try to counteract that. That'll be my goal. It'll be a little bit of a chess match."

Keep it simple

The Blackhawks forced too many plays Friday night against the Nashville trap and it cost them in turnovers.

"We have to simplify our game a little bit," Toews said Saturday after practice. "Now we know how patient of a game we have to play against this team. It doesn't all have to happen in one shot for us. We just have to keep chipping away."

Another area that must improve is making life a little more complicated for Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. The talented Preds blue-line corps kept the front of the net fairly clear Friday night, and it's going to take more sandpaper to penetrate that area Sunday night.

"We've got some guys that can go there and we need more of that across the board by committee. ... Every line has guys that can go to the net and hang around. We can do that," said Quenneville. "Everybody has to know to go to the net. Kaner got a goal like that by treading the second opportunity and going to the front. Those are the type of goals that are going to be there. But we have to be willing to create more traffic and more second opportunities."

Believing in Niemi

Antti Niemi allowed only two goals in his playoff debut, but the first one, a floater from the sideboards by J.P. Dumont, still has people buzzing Saturday. Is Quenneville concerned with Niemi?

"No, he's got a great approach and demeanor about himself," said Quenneville. "Move ahead and play the next opportunity and the next shot. He was solid, he was big in net for us last night. Those funny bounces can happen against anybody. Moving forward, it was a good challenge and a good test and we expect him to be solid."

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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