The Chicago Blackhawks will look to rebound from a tough loss as they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday night at the United Center.
The Hawks dropped a 3-2 decision in a shootout against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night, but there was plenty to be positive about. Despite some early struggles in moving the puck, the Blackhawks racked up 41 shots on goal in the game, and they got a huge push from one of their biggest stars, as Patrick Sharp racked up seven shots on goal and scored on a 2-on-1 rush in the second period.
On Sunday, though, their offense will be put to a serious test, as center Brad Richards will miss the game with an upper body injury. Head coach Joel Quenneville said that Richards is day-to-day with the ailment, but at this point it’s unclear who will replace him at center on the line. There is a chance that Marcus Kruger could fill the role, with Joakim Nordstrom or Ben Smith taking over center duties on the fourth line. Andrew Shaw could also be in line for a promotion, so Quenneville has no shortage of options.
The Blackhawks will also have a different goalie in net, as Antti Raanta will play in place of Corey Crawford. While Crawford only had to face 17 shots during the first 65 minutes of Saturday’s game (he faced nine shootout chances as well), the fact that he’s just coming off a lower-body injury likely is playing into Quenneville’s decision to rest him in the second half of a back-to-back set of games.
As for the Maple Leafs, they are coming off of an embarrassing 7-4 loss on home ice against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night. The Hawks have to be cautious about the Leafs coming in with extra incentive to win, as a horrific loss to the Nashville Predators earlier in the season propelled the team on a run where they went 10-1-1 over a 12-game span.
The big key for Chicago tonight is a simple one: take advantage of opportunities. The Maple Leafs are a team that has a tough time holding onto the puck, and the Hawks should get plenty of scoring chances in the game. Getting traffic to the front of the net will help increase the chances of goals being scored, and that means players like Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell will both have to be in top form to pick up a win in this one.
-The Blackhawks’ organization was rocked on Sunday afternoon as it was announced that assistant equipment manager Clint Reif had passed away suddenly. There will be a pregame moment of silence in his honor, and the Hawks will wear special decals on their helmets with his initials.
Our thoughts and prayers go out not only to the Hawks, but more importantly to Clint’s wife and four children in this difficult time.