CHICAGO -- As the Chicago Blackhawks prepare for a physical Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Kings, coach Joel Quenneville shuffled his lines during Friday's practice by putting hard-hitting Bryan Bickell alongside Marian Hossa and Michal Handzus on the first line.
"I think he's earned that opportunity, how he's played," Quenneville said. "Not just his production offensively, but physically, he's been engaged.
"He's got some speed. He's had a lot of puck time. When he did get the opportunity, he did an excellent job. Gives him a little bit more size and more presence."
The 6-4, 233-pound Bickell is excited for that opportunity.
"The hitting part of my game is to spark the team or give space for the players," Bickell said. "Finish your checks to grind down their defensemen or forwards. That's part of my game. I think it's going to be a physical series.
"We haven't had too much of that the first two series, but we're looking forward to the challenge. It should be fun, too."
The Kings have had 536 total hits and are averaging 41.2 hits a game through 13 playoff games. By comparison, the Red Wings had more than 30 hits twice in their seven-game series with the Blackhawks, and the Wild averaged 33 hits in their five-game series.
"Against them, we'll try to worry about what we have to do. If we play our game, play the fast paced game we've been playing the past few games, it should work well for us. We're excited about doing that, especially after last series, finishing off three strong games."
Hossa also thought the key was sticking to their own game.
"They play a physical game," Hossa said. "We know that. We play a quick game. We know how we can beat them. We just have to attack their weakness."
Hawks forward Viktor Stalberg is expecting this series to leave a mark.
"I'm sure there will be a lot of blue arms and backs at the end of it," Stalberg said.