Ready for the memories to come flooding back? No? Too bad, they probably will anyway when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Dallas Stars in the preseason finale for both clubs. Puck drop at the United Center is slated for 7:30 p.m., and the game can be seen on Comcast Plus for those in or near the Chicagoland area. It can also be heard on WGN 720-AM.
With the rosters for both teams rounding into form, we’re getting to the point where we’ll be looking at the projected lines instead of a list of participating players. Here are the Blackhawks’ lines from their morning skate, courtesy several beat writers:
I haven’t seen defensive pairings anywhere from the morning skate, but Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, David Rundblad, Trevor Daley, Brent Seabrook, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Viktor Svedberg could all play. Kyle Cumiskey and Michal Rozsival are both hurt and will not play. It’s also not clear who starts in net for Chicago, but with Scott Darling receiving action in the previous preseason game, the guess is Corey Crawford gets the nod. There’s always a chance Michael Leighton goes tonight before he heads back to Rockford.
Here are the Stars’ morning-skate lines and pairings, courtesy Mark Stepneski of the Stars’ website:
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Former Blackhawks Sharp and Oduya will return to the United Center less than four months after winning the Stanley Cup on the ice surface. Former Chicago prospect Stephen Johns will not make the trip, as he has already been cut from the preseason roster. The two will likely get a very warm reception from Blackhawks fans at some point during this outing.
On a personal note, I’m very sad the Stars will not be starting one of my favorite names in the league, defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka. It’s a lot of fun to say his name (pronounced yeer-key yo-key-pah-kah, from what I’ve heard previously).
With that out of the way, let’s look at three Blackhawks to watch in tonight’s game:
May 1, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell (29) looks for the puck between Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk (40) and defenseman Jordan Leopold (33) during the third period in game one of the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
This might be the most obvious player to watch in the short history of my time offering players to watch. Let’s look at what was said after today’s morning practice, after it was announced Bickell had cleared waivers:
Coach Joel Quenneville noted the move was meant to light a fire under Bickell, while simultaneously not acknowledging the fact it was also an attempt to get Bickell’s albatross contract off the books. That could’ve made for good conversation.
So how does Bickell react to this, paired with the team obviously shopping him prior to putting him on waivers? He’s playing alongside Teuvo and Garbutt, an odd combination. Garbutt is a guy who will work for garbage goals, while Teuvo is a playmaker through and through. Bickell has a mean, if underutilized, wrist shot and occasionally gets to the net as well. What role will he play on this line? And will the waiver move actually push Bickell to play better? We’ll get a taste of the answers to both questions tonight.
Another “duh” choice for this section, Panarin is getting his first and only look in preseason play tonight. As Blackhawk Up’s Sean Fitzgerald pointed out earlier today, Panarin is getting a lot of trust from Q and the Blackhawks in that he’s immediately lining up alongside Anisimov and Kane on the second line. Dallas’ attempts at revamping its defense have been iffy at best, so this could be a good opportunity for Panarin to show he’s worth the hype that followed him from the KHL.
Dec 3, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Dallas Stars left wing Antoine Roussel (21) fights with Chicago Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw (65) during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
The grinder has earned the lottery spot alongside Toews and Hossa, and it figures to stay that way heading into the regular season unless Shaw looks absolutely awful tonight. You can bet he’ll be getting to the net at every opportunity, trying to bull rebounds off shots by his linemates and the blueliners past either Niemi or Lehtonen. While Shaw seems like a guy who gets all the good chances under Q, his current line positioning is not an absolute guarantee moving forward, especially if call-ups are made from Rockford early in the season. Shaw needs to make an impact or he’ll quickly be back with Kruger and Desjardins … which sounds fine to me.
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