After a closer-than-it-should’ve-been victory against the Florida Panthers on Thursday, the Chicago Blackhawks return to the ice tonight for their first game against the Tampa Bay Lightning since the end of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.
Tampa Bay is currently on a tour of the Central Division, this being the third of four consecutive road games against foes from the NHL’s toughest division. The Lightning fell 5-4 to Nashville in a shootout Tuesday before defeating Winnipeg 4-3 in overtime last night. That left Steven Stamkos and Co. at 5-2-1 on the season with 11 points, five behind mega-hot Montreal in the Atlantic Division.
Let’s take a look at the projected lines, defensive pairings and goaltenders for both teams, starting with the Blackhawks (forward lines courtesy Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus):
Joel Quenneville will likely go with the hot-hand/if it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it style after a win Thursday. Bryan Bickell is still the odd man out for the Blackhawks, meaning everything stays the same as it was against the Panthers. It’s good to see Garbutt is apparently feeling no ill effects of a cross-check to the face by former Blackhawk Dave Bolland. He and Hinostroza were the only Blackhawks under 10 minutes of ice time in the last outing, and if the game against the Lightning stays close, it’d be hard to imagine they’ll get much more tonight.
More from Blackhawks News
- Blackhawks vs Flames: Date, Time, Lineup, Betting Odds, More
- Three Takeaways from the Blackhawks’ Win vs Vancouver
- Blackhawks: Why Derek King is the Right Coach moving forward
- Marc-Andre Fleury Carries the Blackhawks to a 4-2 Win vs Seattle
- Instant Reaction: Blackhawks top Kraken for first time in history
On to the projected lineup for Tampa Bay:
The biggest thing here is who’s starting in goal for the Lightning. It won’t be Bishop, who started the first eight games in the crease for Tampa Bay. It won’t be Kevin Poulin, who was placed on waivers this morning. And it won’t be Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is recovering from surgery to remove a blood clot. So who is Kristers Gudlevskis? You may remember him as the Latvian goalkeeper who stopped 55 of 57 shots in a 2014 Olympic quarterfinal game against Canada, a team that included Toews, Seabrook, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp. Yeah.
Tampa did a little more lineup shifting in addition to deciding a goaltender, as Paquette will make just his fifth start of the season while J.T. Brown takes a seat. Sustr also slots in for Nikita Nesterov on the blue line.
Let’s now take a glance at three Blackhawks to watch in tonight’s matchup.
Oct 22, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Florida Panthers centerJonathan Huberdeau
(11) skates with the puck against Chicago Blackhawks center Vincent Hinostroza (48) during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
This might be the night Hinostroza collects his first NHL goal. There’s a good chance the Teuvo-Hinostroza-Garbutt line receives the opportunity to take on part of Tampa’s bottom six, which would of course be a favorable matchup for a line that’s had some nice chances in two previous games. The Lightning would like their chances of winning this game if they shut down the Blackhawks’ top two lines, so the goal for this third line should be to get to the net and make life miserable for Gudlevskis. It all starts with the line’s center, and you know Hinostroza is itching to pot his first big-league goal.
Oct 17, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Viktor Svedberg (43) with the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Seabrook will be asked to take on the likes of Tampa’s top-six forwards, and that means Svedberg is coming with him until further notice. The idea of a giant in Svedberg being rolled out against Stamkos and friends or against the Triplets Line of Palat, Johnson and Kucherov is equal parts interesting and scary. Svedberg will need to make sure he isn’t caught standing still, lest he lose one of these guys within seconds, and it’d be appropriate for him to use his body down low to remind Tampa’s smaller, quicker forwards that they won’t get anything easy around him. With Keith sidelined for awhile, Svedberg is going to be, more or less, forced to have a coming-out party at some point, especially while he’s lined up alongside one of the Blackhawks’ top-two defensemen.
Oct 15, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals defensemanDmitry Orlov
(9) checks Chicago Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw (65) while battling for the puck in the third period at Verizon Center. The Capitals won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Somewhat like Hinostroza, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Shaw get a little more involved offensively tonight. But I’ve added him to the list of players to watch because I’m hoping he’ll have an increased role on the powerplay tonight. Yesterday I discussed ways the Blackhawks’ man-advantage could be improved, among them utilizing guys like Shaw more in such situations. It’s rare a team goes through an entire game without committing a penalty, so the Blackhawks figure to have at least one chance. Hopefully Shaw gets some chances in those opportunities and plants himself right in front of Gudlevskis, who is making his first NHL start of the season.
More from Blackhawk Up
- Blackhawks: Key Takeaways from 3-2 win over the Blues
- Blackhawks: Grading Connor Murphy and a position comparison
- Blackhawks: Shuffling the lines to try and spark offense at 5 on 5
- These Lineup Changes could Solve the Blackhawks’ Scoring Problem
- Blackhawks: List Of Things To Be Thankful For This Thanksgiving