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Chicago Blackhawks, Red Wings Go For Two

By Colin Likas
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Another night, another preseason game between longtime rivals in the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings.

Tonight’s affair will take place an hour earlier than yesterday’s, starting at 6:30 p.m. at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The Blackhawks captured both teams’ preseason opener with a 5-4 overtime win at the United Center on Tuesday thanks to a Trevor Daley overtime goal. Chicago also received goals from Kyle Baun, Jonathan Toews, Teuvo Teravainen (powerplay) and Ryan Garbutt on top of a perfect 22-save night from starting goaltender Scott Darling.

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But third-period struggles plagued backup netminder Mark Visentin, as he recorded just 12 saves on 16 shots. The Red Wings netted three third-period goals to force overtime, which would have happened regardless of the score after three periods thanks to a predetermined agreement.

So, on to the next one. The Blackhawks lineup will look quite a bit different tonight from who was on the ice last night, with only a handful of players getting back-to-back starts. A look at the roster:

Forwards: Viktor Tikhonov, Bryan Bickell, Daniel Paille, Ryan Hartman, Mark McNeill, Michael Liambas, Vincent Hinostroza, Brandon Mashinter, Graham Knott, Chris DeSousa, Garret Ross, Andrew Shaw, Tanner Kero, Tomas Kopecky

Defensemen: David Rundblad, Ville Pokka, Jan Hejda, Dennis Robertson, Viktor Svedberg, Dillon Fournier, Erik Gustafsson, Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltenders: Corey Crawford, Michael Leighton

The potential lines for tonight are not known at this point, but the first thing you can see from this lineup is the Blackhawks are icing four pairs on the blue line. Rundblad, Hejda and Svedberg all saw action last night, so expect some of the other five to get longer looks.

On the forward end, this is the preseason debut (not including the Training Camp Festival game) for all but Paille, who suited up last night in Chicago. Only two regulars from last season’s team, Bickell and Shaw, will see the ice, so it should be fun to watch the young guys compete for future roster spots and try to impress Joel Quenneville and Co.

Now for the Red Wings’ roster for tonight’s game. MLive.com’s Ansar Khan has potential line combos, defensive pairings and goaltenders:

Justin AbdelkaderHenrik ZetterbergGustav Nyquist

Tomas JurcoBrad RichardsTomas Tatar

Eric Tangradi-Tomas Nosek-Mitch Callahan

Jeff Hoggan-Louis-Marc Aubry-Martin Frk

Niklas KronwallJonathan Ericsson

Danny DeKeyserMike Green

Brendan SmithJakub Kindl

Petr Mrazek (start)-Jared Coreau

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As you can see, the Wings are suiting up more of their regulars tonight for their home opener of the preseason after going with a lineup full of prospects in Chicago the night prior. The top two forward lines are all guys you can expect to see on the ice for Detroit’s season opener, while all six defensemen will see time for the Wings this season, as will Mrazek in net.

With that information on the table, let’s look at three Blackhawks to watch tonight:

Mark McNeill

McNeill might be the most obvious player to watch through the rest of this preseason. With the Blackhawks bringing in many forwards during this offseason, McNeill has sort of been lost in the shuffle as the next big thing to come from Rockford. He likely isn’t going to settle for that reality, and so these preseason games are his chance to prove to Q that he’s a serviceable option come October and beyond.

McNeill is listed at right wing on the Blackhawks roster, but what the team is really looking for is some left wings. Might McNeill be given a shot at that spot? It’s not as though Q is adverse to putting guys in positions different from what they’re listed at (Teuvo at left wing instead of center, Sheldon Brookbank at wing instead of defense). Regardless, McNeill will probably be flying around the ice at Joe Louis Arena tonight, trying to deposit pucks in the net left and right. What he can’t do is let that emotion translate into silly penalties or blown defensive coverage. Both are very quick ways to land in Q’s doghouse.

Sep 23, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Mashinter (53) and Detroit Red Wings center Tomas Nosek (82) battle for the puck in front of goalie

Jonas Gustavsson

(50) during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Anyone who wants to avenge Marko Dano

I’ll admit, this is a pretty broad “player to watch,” but I’ll explain further. Dano took what sounded like a nasty elbow (I only had radio) from Wings defenseman Smith in last night’s game, causing Dano to miss some shifts. While he did return, it was somewhat surprising no one from the Blackhawks went after Smith, especially with the chance to make an impression on Q.

With some of the names on tonight’s roster, Smith may get his comeuppance from Mashinter or Ross. Both are edgy players who have no problem mixing it up with their foes, and both guys would probably like to show they are team players who will stick up for those around them. The goal of a preseason game isn’t to turn it into a donnybrook, but when one of your starting forwards takes an elbow to the dome before we’re even at the banner raising ceremony, it’s certainly worth a visit from a teammate. It might just be a delayed visit. We’ll see tonight.

Sep 24, 2014; Uniondale, NY, USA; Carolina Hurricanes left wing

Brad Malone

(24) and New York Islanders defenseman Ville Pokka (52) battle for a loose puck along the boards during the first period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Hurricanes defeated the Islanders 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Ville Pokka

There are quite a few guys I could have put in this third slot — namely TVR and Bickell — but I’m going with Pokka. The 21-year-old defenseman impressed the Blackhawks brass in training camp action, and he seems to be a fringe NHL player for the 2015-16 season. However, Stan Bowman has brought in a number of older blueliners in recent weeks (Hejda, Michal Rozsival, Lubomir Visnovsky) in what seems to be an effort to keep Pokka in Rockford for some more conditioning this season.

I tend to agree with that line of thought, but I have a feeling Pokka would rather be in the NHL than riding a bus to and from hockey games. Now’s his time to show he can hack it at the NHL level, especially with the Wings rolling out a fair number of regulars. And after Rundblad played a game that impressed few Tuesday, Pokka may have the inside track to a surprise 6/7 D role. Make some (positive) noise in the preseason, and that track gets easier to see.

Game prediction: Since I did so well at this last night (I told you all Daley would score!), let’s try again tonight. With the Wings having a fair number of regular-season starters suiting up, they get the advantage. Crawford is in net for the Blackhawks, but he certainly won’t have the Harlem Globetrotters in front of him. And he’ll only play half the game before Leighton comes on in relief. I’m going to say the Wings pull out a 3-2 win tonight in their home opener, with Leighton permitting two markers and McNeill and Hinostroza tallying for Chicago. (Editor’s note: This should be easier to do when we get to the regular season, but I’ll probably still suck at it then, too.)

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