By Ben Meyer-Abbott
The opponent board in the Phoenix Coyotes locker room said it all.
The Blackhawks' opponents in their Western Conference Quarterfinals series have expected Jonathan Toews to play when the teams take the ice Thursday night for Game 1.
"That's what they're telling us," Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle said Wednesday.
Toews name was up on the Coyotes dry erase board listing what they felt was the Hawks' probable lineup, listed between Marian Hossa on his right and Patrick Kane on the left.
"Three all-star guys and three guys who are effective," Yandle said of the Hawks' new-look top line.
And though it may be strange for Hawks fans to see Kane line up on the left side of the ice, the Coyotes aren't of a similar mind set.
"It doesn't really matter. He's kind of a rover guy anyway, he's kind of all over the ice," Yandle said. "He's not a guy that's going to stay on his wing and just go up and down the wing. He's a guy that's going to be playing every where. It doesn't matter what side he's on, he's effective either way."
Coyotes coach Dave Tippett also was less concerned at his press conference the day before Game 1 with where Toews, Kane and Hossa lined up on faceoffs than how to contain the Hawks' high-end talent when the puck drops.
"The identity of their team is they have some top forwards there that you certainly have to be aware of and make sure that you're not giving them easy opportunities," Tippett said. "But [as far as] how they're placed and playing together we'll just have to read and react as that comes at us."
One thing is certain, the Coyotes defense plans on being extra physical with the Hawks' first line.
"With high skill guys like that you got to be hard on them," Yandle said. "You got to finish your checks on them and when they're away from the puck be hard on them. Everybody's willing to do that and looking forward to doing it."
Said fellow defenseman Adrain Aucoin: "We know what their lineup is, we know how talented they are and it just adds to the challenge. [Against] teams like that, that's where we use our depth and really just try to grind them down."