Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was at it again Tuesday, tinkering with his lines on the eve of the Stanley Cup Finals just when it seemed he had found combinations that worked.
Quenneville had a new first line of Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp, with a second line of Michal Handzus, Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell.
But the real news was on the third and fourth lines.
Dave Bolland was back in the middle on the third line between Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad, while Viktor Stalberg was out of the lineup completely, replaced by Brandon Bollig on the fourth line with Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger.
"There's a likelihood or probability it could happen," Quenneville said when asked about his lines possibly changing. "They played well together, that line (of Kruger, Frolik and Bollig), all year long. It could happen."
Stalberg was noticeably annoyed at the mandatory news gathering.
"It's the Stanley Cup Final, and you're disappointed," Stalberg said. "It's frustrating from a personal standpoint. If they want more toughness in this first game, so be it."
Separating Toews and Kane raised some eyebrows, especially coming off Game 5 of the Western Conference finals when Kane netted a hat trick, including the game-winner, in the Hawks' 4-3 double overtime win over the Kings.
"You still have Toews, Sharp and Hossa on one line," Kane said. "I'm with Handzus and Bickell, who have been playing well. A few lineup changes, you don't know if they'll stick or stay. They're looking at their options now. It's probably a question better directed at Q. We'll see what happens."
Quenneville said he is looking for better balance.
"It's balance and something we'll look at," Quenneville said. "Sometimes that can evolve over the course of a series. But it might be one of the reasons."
It certainly looks as if Quenneville wants Bolland to check the Bruins' top line of David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic.
Bollig, who hasn't played since Game 3 of the first-round Minnesota series, is ready to roll.
"There's nothing more exciting than playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs, especially the final," Bollig said. "It's something you dream of as a kid. I know my role and that's definitely what they're looking for me to do is provide that physical presence."
Bollig said he won't feel rusty despite not playing for so long.
"Part of being a professional is staying ready for whenever they make that call," he said. "That's what I've done."
Hawks general manager Stan Bowman was asked Tuesday how close he came to making major changes after two straight first-round playoff exits.
"I think the one thing you hear a lot from the teams at this time of year is how there's such a fine line between winning and losing," Bowman said. "We did a lot of good things the last couple seasons.
"You have to have confidence that you're close to having success in the playoffs. I think we knew we had a very good team. We didn't need to make sweeping changes. You make incremental improvements in certain areas."
Bowman added defensemen Michal Rozsival and Sheldon Brookbank as free agents, brought along rookie left wing Brandon Saad and traded for center Michal Handzus at the deadline.
"I think there's something to be said for consistency," Bowman said. "We've had a lot of these guys together for a long time. Certainly Joel (Quenneville) has done a great job. He understands how to coach the team.
"But having that consistency, you have to have some new pieces to the puzzle, as well, which I think we have some new wrinkles. Some players expand their roles, they show growth internally in their games. When you add it all up, that's why we felt confident coming into the year that we had the group that could have success."
Likes it here:
Bryan Bickell doesn't sound like a guy ready to bolt for more money elsewhere.
Bickell will be an unrestricted free agent after the season and is strongly helping his cause for a big payday with 8 goals in the playoffs.
"I got drafted in '04 by this team and I think of this as a second home to me," Bickell said. "To be brought up through the minor leagues here, it's been an honor, and I feel like this is home to me. I have a lot of friends and family with me in the city and I enjoy it a lot here."
Asked if he would take a home-team discount to stay, Bickell said: "I don't know about that. We'll see. We're just concentrating on the Finals. Me and my agent will come together and talk about all that at the end of the season."
Stan Bowman said the Hawks have invested a lot of time developing Bickell.
"Bicks is a guy we know really well," Bowman said. "We drafted him and developed him over the time. We've worked together to get him to this point.
"He's been with us for a long time, worked his way here. I think in a lot of ways it's nice to see him finally kind of put all the pieces together. We've known he's had the capability for a long time. I'm proud of him. He's sort of coming into his own."Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.