Quenneville will tinker with Blackhawks, but won’t overdo it down stretch
BY MARK LAZERUS email@example.com April 15, 2013 10:33PM
Updated: May 17, 2013 6:37AM
The Blackhawks’ stranglehold on the top seed in the Western Conference — a nine-point lead on Anaheim and a game in hand entering Monday night’s game against Dallas — gives coach Joel Quenneville the opportunity to tinker with his roster and try different guys in different spots.
But don’t expect wholesale changes down the stretch.
“You don’t want to change too much because you don’t want to change the way things are going,” he said. “But we have tried a couple of things, different line combinations, on a need basis. If there’s a need, we’ll definitely look at exploring some different options. But we’re not necessarily looking to do it just to do it.”
Over the last several games, Quenneville has put Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the same line a few times to try to spark the offense. But that’s a temporary option, not a likely long-term configuration. Quenneville also has tried Michal Handzus on the power play, and on Sunday and Monday, he returned Andrew Shaw to his old spot on the third line as he continues to search for the magic formula heading into the playoffs.
Quenneville did shake up his defensive pairings a little more than two weeks ago, breaking up seasonlong partnerships. Since then, Duncan Keith has skated with Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook with Nick Leddy and Johnny Oduya with Michal Rozsival or Sheldon Brookbank.
Unlike the occasional forward movement, those appear to be permanent solutions. Though Quenneville said he reserves the right to reunite pairings if things go awry on the back end again.
“We had a stretch where we weren’t pleased with the results,” he said of the moves. “At the same time, we were in a position to try something, and it’s been pretty good so far. We only try things when we don’t like the way things are going, so it’s on a need basis. . . . So far it’s been so good.”
Patrick Sharp missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury. Sharp missed 14 games with a shoulder injury before returning for two games but took big hits late in each of his two games — at Minnesota and at home against Detroit.
Quenneville said Sharp will be back on the ice Tuesday and that he’s not worried about getting Sharp back into game form with the playoffs less than two weeks away.
“I think there’s enough time to get ready,” he said. “He’ll be skating. There should be ample time.”