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Players happy for coach’s recognition

Published: Saturday, May 18, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is a finalist for the NHL's coach of the year award. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

CHICAGO – Dave Bolland chuckled at the question about his gruff leader.

Was Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville as intimidating as he seemed behind the bench?

“No, not at all,” Bolland said with a gap-toothed smile. “He’s a teddy bear.”

Make that a teddy bear with a chance to become a two-time NHL coach of the year.

Quenneville, 54, was named Friday as a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, which is given every season to the league’s top coach. Other finalists for the award include Bruce Boudreau of the Anaheim Ducks and Paul MacLean of the Ottawa Senators, with the winner to be announced during the Stanley Cup Final series next month.

Thirteen seasons ago, Quenneville won the award as the coach of the St. Louis Blues. His team won the Presidents’ Trophy that season, as it did again this season, when Quenneville guided the Hawks to a 24-game point streak to start the year and a league-best 36-7-5 record.

However, Quenneville deflected all praise to his players.

“The fun factor this year working with this group is over the top,” Quenneville said. “It was a special regular season.”

Patrick Kane and his teammates said Quenneville played a big role in their success, even if he chose not to admit to it.

“The thing you really learn from him is that when you play good defensively, you’re going to have more chances on the offense,” Kane said. “He really preaches coming back and being a good defensive player.”

As for being a teddy bear?

The description cracked up Quenneville, who could not believe it was Bolland, of all players, who uttered the words.

“I haven’t been called that one before,” Quenneville said with another laugh.

Wait and see: Viktor Stalberg wore a white jersey again Friday while practicing on the “fifth line” with Brandon Bollig and Jamal Mayers.

Quenneville did not say whether Stalberg would play in Game 2 after sitting out the opener, but the Hawks’ coach typically does not change his lineup after wins.

Stalberg, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, said he did not expect the recent benching to affect his possible future with the Hawks.

“No, I just think it’s part of [hockey],” Stalberg said, “And whether I’m here or not next year, we’ll see what happens.”

Hawks bits: Bolland explained why he went after Wings forward Justin Abdelkader during Game 1. “He got me in the ‘groan’ area,” Bolland said, smiling at his intentional mispronunciation.

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