DENVER — With the top seed in the Western Conference locked up, Joel Quenneville is using the last three games of the regular season to rest some guys, and keep others sharp and ready.
Duncan Keith, who had been one of only four Blackhawks to play in all 79 games up this point (along with Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin and Richard Panik), got the night off. Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson didn’t make the trip to Denver as he tended to a family matter, and his status for the last two games in Anaheim and Los Angeles is up in the air. Hjalmarsson and his wife, Elina, are expecting their second baby any day now.
With the top pairing out, Michal Kempny played for the first time since March 19 and Michal Rozsival played for the first time since March 10.
Quenneville also switched out his entire fourth line, as Tomas Jurco, Andrew Desjardins and Vinnie Hinostroza drew in, and John Hayden, Dennis Rasmussen and Jordin Tootoo came out. Those six players are battling for the last two spots in the playoff lineup.
“We want to play everyone, be fresh as possible,” Quenneville said.
Artem Anisimov, who suffered a lower-body injury in Montreal last month, skated in Chicago on Monday and “did pretty well,” according to Quenneville. The coach hasn’t ruled out the possibility of him returning for Saturday’s season-finale in Los Angeles, but said it’s not likely. Anisimov is expected to be ready by Game 1 of the playoffs, which likely will be April 13.
Patrick Kane is sporting a nasty fat upper lip after being hit in the face with a puck during warmups Sunday morning. A Marian Hossa shot hit the crossbar and caught Kane in the upper lip, Kane said he got three stitches on the inside of his lip, and seven more on the outside.
“I didn’t know what happened at first, and then you feel your mouth fill with all the blood,” Kane said. “It’s not the way you want to start off the game, but it comes with the territory of playing hockey. I think everyone goes through it at some point in time.”
The NCAA men’s Frozen Four is coming to the United Center, with Denver playing Notre Dame and Harvard playing Minnesota-Duluth in Thursday’s semifinals, with the championship on Saturday night. Jonathan Toews helped lead North Dakota to the Frozen Four in both of his seasons there.
“I think it’s great to see how minor hockey has really gone through the roof in the Chicagoland area with the Blackhawks’ success, and now you have the draft and you have the Frozen Four coming to town,” Toews said. “It’s exciting for people who are not only Blackhawks fans, but hockey fans, to see some of the best young players that are going to be in the NHL and will be at that level pretty soon. I’d love to go watch it. It’s unfortunate we’re on the road while something’s going on at home. But it’ll be cool. Definitely expect great energy at the United Center.”