CHICAGO | Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville had three pressing tasks in his NHL-leading team’s final two-regular season games this weekend.
Foremost was keeping the Hawks sharp heading into the playoffs that will begin no later than Wednesday. Avoiding ill-timed injuries was high on the list. And sneaking in some rest for regulars was necessary.
The Hawks showed Friday night in the home finale they won’t likely have a 2008 Cubs-style letdown of a middling regular-season wrap-up with the inability to turn on the switch full-power for the playoffs.
Quenneville played all his starters on their regular lines in the first game since the Hawks clinched the President’s Trophy for most NHL points Wednesday in Calgary.
In the 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames, a full dress rehearsal for the Stanley Cup run, the Hawks did not appear to be coasting at all.
Stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were in top form early on, each scoring their 23rd goal in the first period. Two periods later, fourth-line center Marcus Kruger tallied his fourth goal.
“(Friday) was a tough game to kind of get up for with everything clinched,” Kane said. “Calgary’s not playing that well. I still thought we did a good job. I think we dominated most of the game, which is good for our team. We probably should have had a few more goals.
Goalie Corey Crawford, who made 25 saves, ran his record to 19-5-5. He’s the likely playoffs starter.
“I’m just trying to not get complacent,” Crawford said. “Continue to play hard and make the right plays out there.”
Kane likes the Hawks’ tempo going into the postseason.
“We finished great,” he said. “The one bad game was against Vancouver (Monday). You’re going to have that every 48 games, I guess. You’ve got to be happy with the way we’re playing going into the playoffs.”
Quenneville also has been conservative in handling injuries in the season’s waning weeks.
Second-line winger Patrick Sharp is back in the lineup after missing most of the past two months with a shoulder injury. No. 1-A goalie Ray Emery is taking it easy until the playoffs nursing a lower-body injury. Center Dave Bolland was projected to return for the playoffs after recovering from a shoulder injury.
The latest of a series of injuries could push Bolland back to his old third-line anchoring position next week. Promoted to the second line, Bolland often struggled in his new role.
Newcomer Michal Handzus, centering between Kane and Sharp, could continue on the second line into the postseason. The 36-year-old Handzus won 57.3 percent of his faceoffs in his first 10 Hawks games after arriving in a trade from San Jose.
Quenneville likely will give many of the regulars most or all of the night off today in the regular-season finale in St. Louis. Backup goalie Carter Hutton, called up to fill in for Emery, could see action.
So could any of nine Friday callups from minor-league affiliate Rockford. Included were forwards Jimmy Hayes, Jeremy Morin, Brandon Pirri and Ben Smith, and defenseman Steve Montador.
All have seen service with the Hawks during the past three seasons.