Jeremy Morin (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
After the Chicago Blackhawks' preseason victory over the Washington Capitals on Saturday night, the team jettisoned a couple more players down to the Rockford IceHogs as they put the finishing touches on their opening night roster.
Getting the axe after the game were forwards Brandon Pirri and Jeremy Morin, and goaltender Antti Raanta, who had been recalled by the team to back-up Nikolai Khabibulin after Corey Crawford was unable to play Saturday night due to lower body stiffness.
After spending much of the team's recent practices without a line to skate on, it isn't much of a surprise that Morin and Pirri will begin the season in the AHL. Pirri was put behind the 8-ball a bit due to an injury he suffered during training camp, so he didn't have much of a chance to audition for the number two center role that he has been pursuing for the better part of three years now.
As for Morin, his play during the preseason has largely been good, but when push came to shove, he was forced out of the Hawks' plans for the early part of the season by the solid training camps that Jimmy Hayes and Ben Smith had, as well as the decision by head coach Joel Quenneville and the rest of the coaching staff to keep Swedish forward Joakim Nordstrom on the roster to start the year.
The decision to keep Nordstrom definitely caught some folks by surprise, considering that he has never really been a great player stats-wise during his career in the Swedish Elite League. He did have three assists in 11 games for the IceHogs last season, but he still was barely talked about as a roster possibility when training camp started in early September. It was his play as a fourth line "energy guy" that must have caught Quenneville's eye, and even though he'll likely alternate starts with Brandon Bollig on that line, he definitely fits in to the mold of a traditional player in that spot in a lineup.
As it stands now, the Hawks still have to make at least one more cut before Tuesday's opener, and that will likely occur among the team's defensemen. Sheldon Brookbank likely has a roster spot locked up as the team's seventh defenseman, but Mike Kostka and Ryan Stanton could be competing for one more spot on the blue line entering the campaign. It's hard to handicap the race at this point, with Kostka's veteran status perhaps playing into his favor but Stanton's 25 points in 73 AHL games last season working in his favor.