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Chicago Blackhawks Week Ahead: Brandon Saad Returns

By Colin Likas
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Oct 10, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; Philadelphia Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol in the first period of a game against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday: Chicago Blackhawks at Philadelphia Flyers, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)

Philadelphia is expected to be among the league’s worst teams this season with so-so goaltending (led by starter Steve Mason) and dismal defense (led by … Michael Del Zotto and Mark Streit?). Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek will light the lamp plenty, but there isn’t a great deal to be excited about in Philly this season.

Philadelphia is 0-1-1 to star the season. The Flyers host Florida tonight to start a three-game homestand, in which the Blackhawks are the second game. The teams split their games last season, with the Blackhawks winning 4-0 at the United Center and falling 4-1 at Wells Fargo Center.

Oct 10, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals goalie

Braden Holtby

(70) celebrates with Capitals right wing

T.J. Oshie

(77) after their game against the New Jersey Devils at Verizon Center. The Capitals won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday: Chicago Blackhawks at Washington Capitals, 6 p.m. (CSN Chicago)

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Washington is a media favorite to rise toward the top of the Eastern Conference because … reasons. The roster certainly has some solid pieces, led by captain and sightseeing defender Alex Ovechkin. Nicklas Backstrom and overestimated T.J. Oshie are also among the forward corps, along with talented youngsters Andre Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Michael Latta. Oh, and Justin Williams and Brooks Laich are Caps. That’s funny, right?

The defense is an interesting group “led” by Brooks Orpik, but considering they play in the Eastern Conference, the Caps’ defense can likely hold its own. Braden Holtby is coming off a career season in net and has a new contract under his belt. He’s “the man” this season, and Washington’s offense will only carry it so far if Holtby implodes/reverts.

The Caps won their opener, and that’s the only game they played last week. Washington hosts San Jose on Tuesday as Chicago is again the middle game on a team’s three-game homestand. The Caps won both games against the Blackhawks last season by a 3-2 margin, one being the Stadium Series game in which Troy Brouwer tallied in the final minute of regulation.

Oct 10, 2015; New York, NY, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center

Ryan Johansen

(19) high fives the bench after scoring during the third period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. New York Rangers won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday: Columbus Blue Jackets at Chicago Blackhawks, 7:30 p.m. (WGN)

This game marks the return of former Blackhawk Brandon Saad to the United Center. He’ll likely receive some recognition after the first media timeout. Columbus is a team I think will jump into the playoff picture this season after suffering through a crazy number of injuries in 2014-15. Strong offensive forwards like Saad, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno dot the roster, though Foligno is probably due for a regression after a stellar previous campaign. Scott Hartnell is sure to get in tight to opposing goaltenders for dirty goals.

The defense is led by Jack Johnson but doesn’t have a whole lot else in the way of star power. The current defensive corps contains just one player above the age of 28, so there is at least something to work with. Sergei Bobrovsky will stop just about everything that comes his way if he’s healthy — a big if.

Columbus is off to a chilly start at 0-2-0, one of nine winless teams heading into this week’s action. For all their injury issues last season, Columbus swept the two-game series against the Blackhawks by taking a 3-2 shootout win at home and a 5-2 victory at the UC.

The Blackhawks could easily go 3-0-0 on the week, but two wins seems like a reasonable expectation, with the game against the Flyers a definite “should-win.”

Next: Blackhawks' Third Line Needs Consistency

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