CHICAGO — In a barely concealed effort to keep one of their premier players away from Zdeno Chara, the Blackhawks, who reshuffled their top two lines Tuesday, kept them in that new alignment for Wednesday’s morning skate at the United Center.
Patrick Kane, who scored three goals in the final two games of the Blackhawks’ Western Conference finals victory over the Kings while often skating on a line with Jonathan Toews, apparently will not play alongside the Chicago captain in Wednesday’s Game 1.
Toews will center the first line, with Patrick Sharp on the left wing and Marian Hossa to his right. Kane will play on a line centered by Michael Handzus, with Bryan Bickell at left wing.
“I think all year long the thought process has been Kaner and Toews, but in two different lines,” said coach Joel Quenneville.
“In the last three rounds, there’s probably been some adjustments in that area. Kaner and Johnny seemed to click in the last four periods against LA. At the same time, they’ve been apart almost all year.”
The only personnel change to the Blackhawks lineup is the addition of Brandon Bollig, who will play on the fourth line. Viktor Stalberg is expected to be scratched.
Kane said the Bruins’ physical style won’t catch the Blackhawks by surprise.
“We faced that in our last series against LA,” Kane said. “We knew they were going to be physical, and Boston, we’ll expect the same from them. Each and every series, it gets tougher, and we’ll be ready for it.”
But because the teams didn’t play each other this season, there could be a feeling-out process early in the game.
“The start’s important,” Quenneville said. “I think that unpredictability, not knowing one another, what to expect. Who knows what could happen right off the bat? I think the excitement of both teams being here, not knowing too much about one another, that unpredictability could be exciting as well.
“Maybe the game settles down at one point where we become familiar with each other’s habits. I think we want to make sure we play to our strengths, try to play fast, try to make them play defense.”
Toews said the Blackhawks want the Bruins to react to what they’re trying to do, and not vice versa.
“We want to have a good start tonight and just go out there and play our game.” he said. “It mostly comes to our preparation and making them worry about our system.”