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The return of Jonathan Toews will result in a fine line for Blackhawks

Jonathan Toews Blackhawks middle competes against Kings first period United Center Wednesday Dec. 28 2011 Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

Jonathan Toews of the Blackhawks, middle, competes against the Kings in the first period at the United Center Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 6, 2012 8:24AM

What do you do with the top two lines once Jonathan Toews returns?

With Toews’ return from a concussion pushed back at least one more game, coach Joel Quenne-ville has more time to decide. But when he curiously said he’s considering using Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane on the same line with Toews, it meant two things: questions for Patrick Kane about left wing and approval for rookie center Marcus Kruger.

With Toews out the last 20 games, the Hawks have primarily used Kane and Kruger to center their top two lines, which have both played well and produced down the stretch.

“I’m sure I’d be the guy that goes over there,” Kane joked, when asked about left wing. “There’s no talking with that guy [Hossa] about it. Plus, he’s got a little more rank on me too.”

The Kane-Toews-Hossa combination — on paper, a scary proposition for opponents — has been attempted before with varying success. Kane and Hossa both prefer right wing, where they have amassed points throughout their careers and became stars.

Kane has done well at center, but it’s thought that he’ll be moved back to the right side once the playoffs begin and Toews, one of the NHL’s best centers, is healthy. Toews will miss Thursday’s game against the Minnesota Wild.

“For right now, we don’t know when Jonny is going to be back or what the lines are going be when he’s back, either,” said Kane, who’s had success centering Hossa and Andrew Brunette. “But there are a lot of options and a lot of good lines that can be put together. You think about him coming back, it just makes the lineup that much better.”

Quenneville is reluctant to break up Kruger’s line with Patrick Sharp and Viktor Stalberg right now. It’s a testament to how well they’ve played together, but also how far Kruger and Stalberg have come in their development. They are both playing like top-six players.

“You like the consistency in the line; you like what they’re creating offensively; you like what they’re giving up defensively, which isn’t much,” Quenneville said. “There’s speed in the line. They have a lot of offensive-zone shifts. They’re generating a lot of scoring
chances. It’s been a nice line for us.”

Quenneville also is pleased with his checking line of Dave Bolland, Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw. So testing out Kane, Hossa and Toews together is definitely a possibility, especially if Brunette’s foot injury continues to hamper him.

After going back and forth from center to wing, Kane said he’s ready for anything.

“I haven’t played left wing yet, so might as well play that one too,” Kane said. “If you put your mind to anything, you can get it done.”

Could he and Hossa switch wings on some shifts?

“Sometimes I joke around with him, and I say, ‘I have right this shift,’” Kane said. “And, he looks at me like I’ve got three heads. ... But it’s fine, he’s pretty good at that position.”

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