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Hawks mix it up

Only one series ago, the Blackhawks were able to heap such befuddlement and frustration onto their opponent that the Sharks dynamited their lineup, rearranging the scattered pieces of previously dominant lines into a wholly different formation.

It didn't help prevent an emphatic series sweep. That presents an interesting dilemma entering the pivotal Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals as the Hawks reshuffled previously stalwart line combos late in their 5-3 Game 4 loss.

The makeup of the pieces likely will define the direction of the series — even if it winds up failing to cauterize the wound at all, as those drowned Sharks discovered.

"I've said it all along: Our team has so much depth that if they're going to key on any two guys, the other line should be able to have a lot of space," winger Patrick Kane said Saturday. "Sometimes change is healthy and you can mix things up a bit and hopefully energize guys. It worked pretty good last game."

Regardless, it is giving Hawks coach Joel Quenneville something to consider. Four games ago, Kane, Jonathan Toews and Dustin Byfuglien were a collective revelation. As of late in Game 4, they were disbanded.

It worked some, with Toews crashing the net and new line partner Andrew Ladd assisting on the goal that gave the Hawks a chance. Now it just depends on whether Quenneville's statement that he "might make some adjustments" is gamesmanship or not.

"When you're winning, I'm very patient," Quenneville said. "When you come off a couple of games like that, you look at doing different things. As we've gone along all year, we're not afraid to mix it up. We have a lot of options."

The inspiration for altering the lines would be forcing the Flyers to dispatch Chris Pronger against either a more physical Toews-Ladd-Byfuglien line or the shiftier Kane-Dave Bolland-Kris Versteeg grouping.

Toews and Kane, despite what the playoff success suggests, didn't always play on the same line this season. So change would not be particularly jarring to the two top offensive weapons on the roster.

"That's not the first time they've been apart," Hawks forward Patrick Sharp said. "They're dangerous as a duo, but they're also good players with some other guys."

Redrawing the lines worked well for 20 minutes Friday night. Whether it can hold up for at least another 60 is the next question.

bchamilton@tribune.com

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