The Chicago Blackhawks have lost three of their last four games after getting off to a strong start, but they’ll look to rebound when they play the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night.
The Blackhawks, who are in second place in the Central Division, will face off against former defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson for the first time since trading him to Arizona in the offseason. Hjalmarsson was a member of three championship teams with the Blackhawks, but was dealt away as the team looked to get younger and faster on their blue line.
The player the Blackhawks received for Hjalmarsson, defenseman Connor Murphy, has yet to find his footing as a member of the team, and has already been a healthy scratch in a pair of games. He has zero points in six games, and he’s trying to find a consistent role on the squad.
Meanwhile, Hjalmarsson has a minus-5 rating for the Coyotes, and has one assist in seven games played with his new team. He is averaging over 22 minutes per game, and he’s trying to help Arizona as they try to get their first victory of the season after dropping their first seven contests.
Saad – Toews – Panik
Hartman – Schmaltz – Kane
Sharp – Anisimov – DeBrincat
Bouma – Wingels – Hayden
Tanner Kero is once again out of the Blackhawks’ lineup, but Tommy Wingels has played well as the center on the fourth line, killing off penalties and doing some good work at even strength, so Kero continues to find himself in the press box instead of on the ice.
The Blackhawks’ top three lines also remain unchanged, as they’ve generated a ton of offense in the early going this season. Patrick Kane and Ryan Hartman continue to be a dynamic duo, and Jonathan Toews appears to have been resurrected by Brandon Saad’s presence on his line.
Needless to say, the Coyotes aren’t a good team, with an 0-6-1 record so far this season, and they have been absolutely atrocious on both ends of the ice. They are in 29th place in the league in scoring, averaging just 2.3 goals per game, and dead last in defense, allowing 4.3 goals per contest.
For the Blackhawks, the key is simply to do what they’ve been doing on offense all year long. Moving the puck quickly along the boards and making smart passes in the middle of the ice will be a big key, and getting traffic to the front of the net will also be critical as they look to keep the Coyotes winless.
The Blackhawks also need to find their footing on the power play. They are 2-for-18 on the man-advantage in their last three games, and they’re coming off an 0-for-5 performance against Edmonton on Thursday.
Puck drop is scheduled for 8 p.m., and the game will air on NBC Sports Chicago.