The Chicago Blackhawks are currently 1-1 in the preseason after splitting their first two games against the Detroit Red Wings, but despite a tight loss on Thursday they will be looking to bounce back quickly against the New York Rangers on Friday night at the United Center.
Since the team will be playing on home ice, they will have a good number of their regular players in the mix for the game. The top two lines will both be intact for the game, with Brad Richards looking to continue building chemistry with Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews skating with long-time running mates Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa.
As for the bottom two lines for the Blackhawks, things get a bit more interesting. Dennis Rasmussen looks like he’ll be the third line center in this one, skating with Matt Carey and Jeremy Morin on his wings. The fourth line will be even more interesting, with Phillip Danault centering a line with Cody Bass and Pierre-Cedric Labrie. The line will give Joel Quenneville the amount of grit he likes to have on the fourth line, but it obviously won’t be much of an offensive juggernaut.
On the defensive side of things, the line combinations are still a bit of a jumble. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will skate together in this one, but Niklas Hjalmarsson is still without regular partner Johnny Oduya, who will sit for the second consecutive home skate. Oduya did play on Thursday night against the Red Wings, playing with Adam Clendening and racking up a minus-2 rating with two shots on goal and two blocked shots in the game.
In goal for the Blackhawks, Corey Crawford will likely play the entire game, according to Quenneville. With the team heading to Saskatoon for a game Sunday that Crawford likely won’t be involved in, the coach wants to get him a full 60 minutes with the team not skating on home ice again until Wednesday.
Players to Watch: Klas Dahlbeck and Stephen Johns
Obviously, wins and losses in the preseason don’t matter, but this game will be particularly interesting for the Hawks. You still have the top two lines looking to tune up their games heading into the season, but on the defensive side of things, you still have youngsters looking to force their way into the conversation for playing time. Klas Dahlbeck and Stephen Johns both fit into that category, and while it’s not a guarantee that they will make it, if Oduya or Nick Leddy is shipped out, then one of these guys could jump into the lineup in the new season.
It will be interesting to watch how their development is progressing when they hit the ice tonight, and with a couple of regulars sitting out, it could be a great opportunity for them to showcase their skills.