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3 Chicago Blackhawks To Watch Vs. The Islanders

By Colin Likas
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Today marks the second half of the first of 13 back-to-backs for the Chicago Blackhawks. After earning/stealing a 3-2 victory from the New York Islanders in the hockey debut of the Barclays Center on Friday, the same two teams will face off the United Center at 7:30 p.m. today.

It wouldn’t be totally surprising to see close to the same lineups for both teams tonight as what we saw last night. The only changes should be in net. We know Scott Darling will make his regular-season debut for the Blackhawks, but the Islanders’ goaltending situation is a bit uncertain. Jaroslav Halak is dealing with an injury and wasn’t even on the bench behind backup Thomas Greiss in yesterday’s affair. So we could see Halak, if he’s healthy, or we could see third-stringer Jean-Francois Berube. The Blackhawks don’t exactly have a fantastic history against goaltenders they haven’t seen before, and I’d assume many of them haven’t seen much or any of Berube (his NHL experience is currently nil).

So if we see the same lines and pairings as last night, we’ll get this for the Blackhawks …

Teuvo TeravainenJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa

Artemi PanarinArtem AnisimovPatrick Kane

Bryan BickellAndrew ShawViktor Tikhonov

Andrew DesjardinsMarcus KrugerRyan Garbutt

Duncan KeithNiklas Hjalmarsson

Viktor SvedbergBrent Seabrook

Trevor van RiemsdykTrevor Daley

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The forward lines seem to be clicking very well thus far, with Panarin, Anisimov and Kane impressing early. The third line is probably the weak link at this point, but once Bickell and Shaw get a little more comfortable alongside Tikhonov, things could turn for the positive for that trio.

The defense … yikes. While the Islanders are certainly a quick and talented team, the Blackhawks’ blue line (Corey Crawford included in spots) gave the NYI men wayyyyyy too many extra chances with turnovers and general poor play. At this rate, the Blackhawks will need to find a way to move salary in order to sign a veteran blue liner later in the season. Thankfully, there’s still plenty of time for van Riemsdyk and Svedberg to improve and for Daley to adjust to his role in this defense.

On the Islanders’ side …

Anders LeeJohn TavaresRyan Strome

Josh BaileyFrans NielsenKyle Okposo

Brock NelsonMikhail Grabovski-Nikolay Kulemin

Matt MartinCasey CizikasCal Clutterbuck

Nick LeddyJohnny Boychuk

Calvin de HaanTravis Hamonic

Brian StraitMarek Zidlicky

New York wasn’t exactly shutting down the Blackhawks last night, allowing 35 shots to the 36 the Islanders produced. Former Blackhawk Leddy didn’t have the best of nights, including the overtime penalty that led to Chicago’s game-winning goal. But Leddy and Boychuk are a very strong first pairing, so Joel Quenneville should look to get his top two lines out against anyone who isn’t those two.

With all of this information in mind, let’s look at three Blackhawks to watch tonight.

Viktor Tikhonov

The Russian made his Blackhawks regular-season debut at the Barclays Center alongside Bickell and Shaw and recorded the fewest ice time among all Blackhawks (10:31). But in that time, he managed a shot on goal, two takeaways and three hits. Not a bad day’s work for a third-liner. With Q being able to dictate matchups tonight, Tikhonov made see a little more ice time and some more chances to display his offensive ability. Playing next to Shaw and Bickell won’t exactly breed Wayne Gretzky numbers, but it’s what Tikhonov has to work with right now. We’ll see what he can make of it while getting (conceivably) more-favorable matchups.

Viktor Svedberg

Also making his Blackhawks regular-season debut last night, Svedberg … was OK. He certainly wasn’t good, but there’s room for improvement. Svedberg will never be mistaken for Leddy in skating ability, and the 6-foot-8 youngster was a little sloppy in his own zone. But he did managed two shots on goal and two blocked shots while seeing more than a minute of shorthanded time. So he’s getting a bit of a leash and at least trying to take advantage of it. Like Tikhonov, Svedberg should see more favorable matchups tonight with the Blackhawks having last change. It could help Svedberg settle in on the blue line and feel a little more comfortable.

Scott Darling

No, we’re not watching him to see if he’ll replace Crawford as the starter (I feel like I still have to say this). But as was mentioned above, the Chicago defense wasn’t exactly shutting down all comers. Crawford handled the attack well last night, so how will Darling stand up? Darling will be expected to come in on one half of all back-to-backs to try and pick up a win each time. His job won’t be as easy as it was last year with the current leaks in the Blackhawks defense. We’ll see how he fares.

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