The Chicago Blackhawks have had to wait nearly six months to get back on the ice after missing the postseason earlier this year, but they’ll finally have their opportunity to play in a game that counts as they take on the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night.
The Blackhawks, who finished in last place in the Central Division a season ago, will hope to get more production out of youngsters, resurgent years out of veterans, and above all else a healthy Corey Crawford later this month, and they’ll hope to be back in playoff contention this season.
After an up-and-down preseason, the Blackhawks will sport a very different lineup on Opening Night than they did last season. Youngsters like Dominik Kahun, Luke Johnson, and Henri Jokiharju will be trying to make an impact this season, and they’ll be trying to push along the veterans as they do so.
The big key for Blackhawks fans to remember, especially early in the campaign, is that a lot of these players have very little NHL playing time, and they’ll need time to learn, and space to make mistakes.
Especially in the case of Kahun, who is going to see some serious top-six time in the early going, and Jokiharju, who will make his NHL debut on Thursday, Blackhawks fans will need to exercise some patience.
The Blackhawks’ lines are the same as they were at the end of the preseason, with Kahun skating with Alex DeBrincat and Jonathan Toews on the top line and Johnson centering the fourth line with Marcus Kruger and Andreas Martinsen.
The line to watch in the game Thursday is the second line, with Nick Schmaltz centering up Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane. Those three have been working well together in practice, and will be expected to generate a lot of offensive push in the first game of the regular season.
Player to Watch: Patrick Kane
Kane will have a couple of talented linemates in Saad and Schmaltz, but even more noteworthy is how well he played against the Senators last season, scoring two goals and dishing out five assists to lead all Blackhawks scorers in the two games against Ottawa.
After a somewhat down year, Kane is looking to rebound in a big way, and there’s no better team to do that against than one of the league’s worst teams from a season ago.
Where to Watch/Listen:
The game will begin at 6:30 p.m., and will air on WGN. The game will air on the radio on WGN 720AM.