Last week the mailbag was full of anger. Not so much this time around. I guess those questions about Q losing the team, got lost! Let’s get to it:
Q: What's up with Adam Burish being out of the lineup? Is it just his turn, like everyone on the 4th line has taken a turn? Or did he try to come back too soon? Thanks, Jesse! -- Wendy (Naperville)
A: He’s not hurting. I think it started as his turn after a dip in his play and now that the fourth line is producing, he’s the odd man out. Coaches are loathe to switch the lineup when the team is winning and that’s even true if a certain line isn’t producing. In this case, they are, so I don’t see a change coming. He might get back in there in this back-to-back set coming up, though.
Q: Now that the Hawks are facing their last week of the regular season, do you think Quenneville will look to solidify his top three lines to build some chemistry before the playoffs, or do you think he will continue to juggle line combinations? -- David B (Chicago, IL)
A: I’m sure he would like to have those lines set but I don’t think he’s hell-bent on it. The key seems to be Dave Bolland. Can he return to the form he showed last season? If that’s the case, he might get put back with Marian Hossa. If not, Hossa and Johnathan Toews will stick together. It will change even in the playoffs but I’m sure he’ll want to start with something set and go from there.
Q: Do you see the Hawks keeping Antti Niemi as the starting goalie next season and picking up a backup, assuming they are going to dump Huet, which they should. Niemi keeps improving and he is young. I feel like he is going to have an excellent playoff push, and hope he is back for the start of next season in goal. -- Dan (Maplewood, MO)
A: I don’t think there is a guarantee either goaltender is back. Niemi’s situation is very interesting. He’s a restricted free-agent but only one year away from un-restricted status. Now, if he wins the Cup or comes close, of course, that would put him on track to return, most likely. If he plays okay and they come up short, the math will determine a lot, as well as if he gets any offers and what they look like. Teams might wait a year and see how he plays as a true No. 1 and then go after him as an un-restricted free agent. Or, the Hawks might try to lock him up for a bunch of years and spread out the money. At this moment, I would say it’s 50/50 if he’s with the team next season.
Q: What is going on with Kim Johnsson? Will he be able to go for the playoffs? We never hear anything about his status. -- Bill (Joliet)
A: First of all, I have written about his status several times but there’s been no change. From what I can gather, he is still suffering from concussion-like symptoms after a bad collision in the game against Philadelphia. I’m told they are playing it safe with him and if the playoffs started today, he might be able to play. Whether he’s going to return before the postseason is anyone’s guess. Obviously, we know once you have a bad concussion you’re more susceptible to another one. I’m told he’s had several in his career, but the last one was in 2007. The Hawks don’t make players who don’t practice available to the media. I have not seen him around the dressing room or on the road, but that doesn’t mean he’s not around. I do wonder, if they are just playing it safe, why he isn’t practicing or, as of this writing, even skating. So it is a little strange. I’m sure Joel Quenneville will address it as the week moves along.
Q: Let's look ahead to the regular season finale against Detroit. If the Hawks are locked into the No. 2, and a Detroit win would get them into 6th place, would the Hawks actually tank the game? It's one thing to start Huet and maybe get the 3rd/4th lines more minutes, but would the Q-stache actually scratch some healthy star players? I think that might be bad karma! -- Aaron (Aurora, IL)
A: It’s a good question. I truly believe if the Hawks have the No. 2 seed and no chance at No.1 then Quenneville will rest a couple players, starting with Duncan Keith. I believe he would do that no matter who they were playing or what it means to the other team. I think Niemi starts the finale, but I could be wrong. He’s played great against Detroit this year. You would see some adjustments in minutes, etc. but as far as literally tanking it, no one will know for sure unless he sits like 5 or 6 guys, which he won’t do. It might be a half-tank job.