The Chicago Blackhawks are preparing for their third preseason game on Saturday night, and one of their biggest stars will be on the ice for the first time.
That star is captain Jonathan Toews, who will make his preseason debut when the Blackhawks battle the Columbus Blue Jackets at the United Center. Toews missed the team’s last game against Detroit after coming down with an illness prior to Thursday’s game, but he was on the ice for morning skate and should be all-systems-go in this one.
Toews will join a strong Blackhawks group that will also feature stars like Patrick Kane, Brandon Saad, and Patrick Sharp as they look to win their third straight preseason game.
Here are the lines Joel Quenneville has set up:
Defensively the Blackhawks will use Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook on Saturday night, but Connor Murphy will get the night off.
For those fans looking to watch the game, here are the three key things to watch as the Blackhawks hit the ice.
Top Two Lines Could Provide Fireworks
The Blackhawks have been experimenting on their top two lines so far this preseason, and this could be the best indication of where Quenneville’s mind is going in terms of how his top six forwards will lineup to start the season.
Getting Toews back in to center the top line is a big deal, as he will look to establish chemistry with Brandon Saad and Richard Panik in that top group. Saad should free up some space for Toews to get into open areas on the ice, and Panik’s quick shot will ensure that teams will not be able to load up on just one player and should give Toews a chance to rack up quality scoring chances.
The second line has been fun to watch in the early going, as Nick Schmaltz has shown an aggressive approach and Alex DeBrincat scored a goal in his preseason debut. This line could be the team’s most explosive if they opt to keep DeBrincat at the NHL level, and Saturday’s game could be a great time for the youngster to make a statement.
Can Kempny Earn a Top-Four Role?
It’s pretty clear that the Blackhawks’ top three defensemen are set, with Seabrook, Keith, and Murphy earning those spots, but who will be the other man on the top four? The Blackhawks could theoretically roll Cody Franson into that spot, but Kempny definitely has a chance to earn the job instead.
The Czech-born defenseman struggled at times in his first NHL season, but he also showed plenty of promise at times as well, leading some to believe that he could make a jump forward as he enters his sophomore campaign with the Blackhawks.
Saturday night should give him some chances to play second-pairing minutes against some decent competition, and fans should definitely keep an eye on him.
Jean Francois-Berube Gets His Shot
The Blackhawks have given Anton Forsberg and Corey Crawford their turns in net so far, and now Berube will get his chance to try to earn the back-up job on Saturday night.
Berube, who appeared in 14 games for the New York Islanders and posted a 3.42 goals against average last season, is competing with Forsberg for the role, and he should get to play the entire game at the United Center on Saturday night. A good performance could help him in the quest to back-up Crawford, and fans should take a look at his positioning and his quickness as he tries to earn the job.