Quenneville might rest Blackhawks down stretch
By SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media April 18, 2013 9:38PM
Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville watches the last few moments of the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 win over the Dallas Stars Monday April 15, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
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Updated: April 18, 2013 11:43PM
While the Blackhawks remain focused on the race with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Presidents’ Trophy and home-ice advantage should they reach the Stanley Cup finals, coach Joel Quenneville said Thursday he would consider resting some of his players down the stretch.
The Hawks clinched the top seed in the Western Conference when the Anaheim Ducks lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night. The Hawks are four points ahead of the Penguins with a game in hand, giving reason to believe they could finish with the most points in the league.
If so, that would provide Quenneville the opportunity to give his stars a much-needed rest after a compressed 48-game schedule.
“We’ve had a deep bench and we’ve been keeping everybody in play here, and managing minutes in games is important as we go along here,” Quenneville said. “But we’ll see where we’re at and if we get a chance or that luxury of getting guys some time off or a game off.”
A decision regarding when Patrick Sharp (upper-body injury) might play and for how long might be among Quenneville’s toughest in the last six games of the regular season.
After skating in practice Wednesday and Thursday, Sharp said he will miss the game Friday against the Nashville Predators at the United Center.
Sharp previously missed 14 consecutive games with an upper-body injury and returned for two before his latest injury. He would not confirm whether he re-aggravated his previous injury.
It appears Quenneville is being cautious with Sharp to have him healthy for the playoffs. But Sharp is eager to get back on the ice.
“It’d be nice to play some games before hitting the playoffs,” Sharp said. “It’s going to be, hopefully, a tough, long run in the playoffs, and every game is physical and intense and I’ll be ready to play.”
Sharp’s sentiment appears to be shared even by the team’s healthy players. Pointing to the Los Angeles Kings’ run to the Stanley Cup last season, the Hawks realize the importance of momentum heading into the playoffs.
Combine that with questions about the power play, and the team sees value in playing games that might have no effect on the standings.
“We put ourselves in good position, but at the same time I think all of us still love competing in here and we know there’s still a little bit of the regular season to get through until we get to the playoffs,” Patrick Kane said. “Like I said before, we’re just trying to get better as a team and feel as best as we can going into the playoff run.”
NOTE: Goaltender Ray Emery (lower-body injury) will not be available Friday. Coach Joel Quenneville called him day-to-day. Corey Crawford will start against the Predators. Carter Hutton was recalled from Rockford to be the backup.