That’s the question coach Joel Quenneville has to decide in the coming days.
Keeping them apart worked for Quenneville and the Blackhawks throughout the regular season and the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs. But putting them together also proved to be the difference in the final two games against the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference finals. The line of Toews, Kane and Brandon Saad produced four goals in the final two games.
Quenneville wasn’t exactly sure Monday on what he was going to do -- or he at least wasn’t informing the public.
“We’ll see,” Quenneville said before the Blackhawks departed for Tampa. “It’s nice having some flexibility and we still haven’t made up our mind yet.”
Quenneville went through a similar situation in 2013. He combined Kane and Toews during the final games of the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Kings and began the Stanley Cup finals against the Boston Bruins with them apart. Quenneville later combined them again and ended the series that way.
“I think it was a matchup thing and we’ll see, but it’s not going to influence this decision,” Quenneville of his 2013 decision.
Defensemen decision: The other decision ahead for Quenneville will be on his fifth and sixth defensemen.
Quenneville utilized Kyle Cumiskey and David Rundblad in those spots in the final two games of the Western Conference final. Cumiskey and Rundblad weren’t on the ice for any goals against in those games, but they only combined for 27:12 of ice time.
Quenneville said Monday he’ll decide between Cumiskey, Rundblad, Kimmo Timonen and Trevor van Riemsdyk for those defenseman spots. Timonen was a healthy scratch the last two games. Van Riemsdyk hasn’t played in an NHL game since November and recently returned to practice after having wrist surgery in April.
“We’ll see on all the options,” Quenneville said. “Van Riemsdyk will make the trip with us. We’ll gauge with him on with practice tomorrow. He skated today, so we’ll see."
Kruger took a big hit late in Game 7 against the Ducks and didn’t play the final 6:07 of the third period. Bickell didn’t play after the first period. Quenneville said it was his decision to sit Bickell.