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Matchups, smatchups: Claude Julien not worried about Blackhawks lines 06.12.13 at 2:14 pm ET
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Claude Julien isn't going to let the Blackhawks' lines dictate the series. (AP)

CHICAGO — Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville appears set to keep Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane separated to begin the Stanley Cup finals, but the Bruins are confident they’ll be able to deal with the spread-out star power.

As Kane said Tuesday, the Blackhawks have a strong top six regardless of whether Toews and Kane are together. If they’re on different lines, that means Toews is playing with Marian Hossa, so the Bruins will have their hands full either way. Claude Julien is confident the B’s can match up with the Blackhawks no matter what Quenneville throws at them.

“It doesn’t,” Julien said when asked about how Quenneville’s new lines impacts their preparations. “We just have to react to it in a way whoever is on the ice. Whoever is on the ice has to be aware of the other team’s players on the ice.

“In our system, everybody knows our game without the puck is important. I think that’s what has gotten us this far, we’ve respected that, back‑checked. Our numbers coming back have continued. Whether I have my fourth line out,you can talk about like [Chris] Kelly and [Daniel] Paille, I don’t think anybody is worried about their game defensively, and Shawn Thornton who has done a great job on that line as well. There’s a lot of trust in our coaching staff when those guys are out there, even when they put a top line on.”

The guess here is that Julien will counter the Sharp-Toews-Hossa line with the Zdeno Chara-Dennis Seidenberg pairing and the David Krejci line, while putting the Patrice Bergeron line and Andrew Ference-Johnny Boychuk pairing against the Bickell-Handzus-Kane line. Of course, look for Julien to find ways to get Chara out there against both lines whenever he can. Julien matches lines as well as anybody in the business, but at the end of the day it’s Chara who makes the biggest impact in matchups.

“That’s why I talk about the matchups up front. Not the end of the world,” Julien said. “You’ll probably see, as every other series, our back end matches up a little more aggressively than our front end.

“Joel already knows that, too, by the way.”

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Blackhawks break up Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in practice 06.11.13 at 12:56 pm ET
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Jonathan Toews had two new wingers in practice Tuesday. (AP)

CHICAGO — Though the Bruins aren’t here yet, the Blackhawks kicked off Media Day by giving the media plenty to work with. Coach Joel Quenneville shuffled his lines in practice, most notably splitting up Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

The two were put together with Bryan Bickell in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, but the lines in Tuesday’s practice were as follows:

Sharp – Toews – Hossa
Bickell – Handzus – Kane
Saad – Boland – Shaw
Bollig – Kruger – Frolik

Keith – Seabrook
Oduya – Hjalmarsson
Leddy – Rozsival

Crawford

In Games 4 and 5 against Los Angeles, Chicago’s top-six looked like this:

Bickell – Toews – Kane
Sharp – Handzus – Hossa

The Bruins are expected to be at the United Center sometime around 2:30 CST.

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Pierre McGuire on M&M: Zdeno Chara’s presence ‘mammoth in a series like this’ 06.10.13 at 1:38 pm ET
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Pierre McGuire

NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire joined Mut & Merloni on Monday to preview the Stanley Cup finals between the Bruins and Blackhawks.

The B’s and Blackhawks have a number of similarities, but McGuire said no other team has someone who can compare to Zdeno Chara.

“They’re similar in a lot of different respects,” McGuire said. “They’re similar in terms of their star power through the middle. They’re similar in terms of their size and their speed on the wings. They’re similar in terms of veteran experience in goal — or lack thereof. They’re similar in terms of their depth on defense. Chicago’s left defense [Duncan Keith, Johnny Oduya and Nick Leddy] is much faster than Boston’s left defense. That’s a key part of the Chicago team. But nobody outside of Boston has Chara. That is mammoth in a series like this.”

Added McGuire: “Chara’s made a huge impact on these playoffs, as he usually does, and he’s made a huge impact especially in the last series.”

Another similarity is the fact that both teams have an agitator who has some talent: Brad Marchand and Andrew Shaw. Of Shaw, McGuire joked that Bruins fans “are going to learn to love him quick.”

“Like Marchand, Shaw has tremendous offensive skill. … He’s not a guy that’s just a super pest. He’s a player. He’s a real player,” McGuire said. “He’s very similar to Marchand. I don’t know if his top-end skill is as good as Marchand; in fact, I would say it’s not. But his pest factor is as high if not higher. He’s fearless, absolutely fearless. Tremendous player. There’s not a team in the league that wouldn’t want this player.”

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Tim Thomas named NHL’s First Star of the Month for November 12.01.11 at 12:56 pm ET
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Tim Thomas

Goaltender Tim Thomas earned some national recognition for his no-loss November when he was named as the NHL’s First Star of the Month on Thursday. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner was 9-0-0 in November with a .941 save percentage and a 1.76 goals against average. Thomas recorded three shutouts in the month, the first of which came on Nov. 5 against the Maple Leafs while the other two came in back-to-back fashion against the Islanders on Nov. 19 and the Canadiens on Nov. 21.

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews took home Second Star honors while the Maple Leafs’ Joffrey Lupul was the league’s Third Star. Toews finished the month with nine goals and nine assists via three multi-goal games and five multi-point games in the month. Chicago went 7-6-1 in November.

Lupul found his way onto the scoresheet in 12-of-14 games the Maple Leafs played in November. He started the month with a hat trick in a 5-3 win over the Devils and finished with a seven-game point-scoring streak. Toronto was 7-6-1 in November. This is the second time this season a Maple Leaf took home a monthly honor, as Phil Kessel finished as the league’s First Star in October.

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