Editorials

3 Chicago Blackhawks To Watch Vs. Backes And Co.

By Colin Likas
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Ah, it’s that time of the season: The first of five regular-season meetings between the Chicago Blackhawks and the rival St. Louis Blues. The Blackhawks snapped a two-game skid with a 4-2 win against the hot Los Angeles Kings on Monday. The Kings’ loss ended their seven-game winning run, so they turned right around Tuesday and defeated the Blues 3-0 at Scottrade Center.

Thus, the Blues are coming off no rest and a loss at home, so they should be ripe for the picking for the Blackhawks. Still, St. Louis is ahead of Chicago in the Central Division standings, boasting an 8-3-1 record for 17 points compared to the Blackhawks’ 7-5-0 mark for 14 points. But the Blackhawks have been stellar at home thus far, holding a 6-1-0 mark at the United Center.

As we usually do, let’s take a look at the projected lineups for tonight’s tilt, starting with the Blackhawks:

Artemi PanarinJonathan ToewsRyan Garbutt

Teuvo TeravainenArtem AnisimovPatrick Kane

Marko Dano-Tanner KeroRyan Hartman

Andrew DesjardinsMarcus KrugerAndrew Shaw

Viktor SvedbergBrent Seabrook

Trevor van RiemsdykNiklas Hjalmarsson

Erik GustafssonTrevor Daley

Corey CrawfordScott Darling

The forward combos and starting goaltender are courtesy the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus. We should assume everything stays the same tonight as it was Monday, as that is coach Joel Quenneville‘s status quo after most wins. The Rockford Line of Dano, Kero and Hartman will try to collect its first NHL points of the season (and, in Kero’s and Hartman’s cases, their careers). Gustafsson continues to get an extended look while David Rundblad hangs out in Q’s doghouse. Gustafsson already has an assist to his name and has shown some great on-ice awareness with his passing, a nice addition to his serviceable defense.

Rundblad and Viktor Tikhonov remain healthy scratches, while Duncan Keith (knee), Marian Hossa (lower body) and Michal Rozsival (ankle) stick to the sideline tonight. There was hope from Coach Q earlier in the week that Hossa could suit up tonight, but he won’t go against a rugged Blues team. Lazerus reports there is some doubt Hossa will make the trip to New Jersey for Friday’s game as well. We’ll wait and see.

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Now for the Blues’ lineup, based on what they rolled out last night:

Alex SteenJori LehteraVladimir Tarasenko

Scottie UpshallDavid BackesTroy Brouwer

Robby FabbriDmitrij JaskinTy Rattie

Steve OttKyle BrodziakRyan Reaves

Jay BouwmeesterAlex Pietrangelo

Carl GunnarssonColton Parayko

Joel EdmundsonRobert Bortuzzo

Brian ElliottJake Allen

Injuries have been an issue for the Blues early on, as Paul Stastny, Jaden Schwartz, Patrik Berglund and Kevin Shattenkirk have already missed considerable time in the young season. Berglund hasn’t played at all after offseason shoulder surgery, while Stastny broke his foot and Schwartz his ankle recently. Shattenkirk has some sort of groin ailment but projects to be back sooner than the other three.

The Blues have made do with what they have, which isn’t exactly garbage. The top line is very capable offensively, with Tarasenko pacing the team with 10 points, including six goals. The third line is basically like the Blackhawks’ third line: A group of talented youngsters getting a shot due to injury. What exactly the second and fourth lines are supposed to do besides irritate opponents is unclear, but it’s always nice to see former Blackhawk Brouwer back at the UC.

The Blues defense loses offensive ability with Shattenkirk out, leaving Pietrangelo as the top option in that area. Parayko has been a nice surprise for them, while Bouwmeester is a fine defensive defenseman. Elliott gets the call tonight after Allen started Tuesday.

So, let’s see which Blackhawks we should keep an eye on tonight:

Nov 2, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw (65) and Los Angeles Kings center

Trevor Lewis

(22) scuffle during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Shaw

This is who Ott, Reaves, Brouwer and Backes are going to be looking for all night, trying to see if they can goad Shaw into committing a silly penalty. It’s not an unfounded premise, especially considering Shaw is tied for second on the Blackhawks in penalty minutes coming into this game. At the same time, this is also a game in which a dirty goal could be the deciding factor. That has Shaw’s name written all over it as well. The fourth line has done nothing offensively — Shaw’s one point came before he was returned to Desjardins and Kruger — and this would be a fine time for a pick-me-up from that trio. If Shaw can avoid the noise around him and keep his nose pointing toward the net, he could have a fantastic evening. Of course, Shaw and his linemates could also be very important from the perspective of shutting down Tarasenko, if Quenneville chooses that matchup.

Oct 24, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Artemi Panarin (72) is pursued by Tampa Bay Lightning left wing

Ondrej Palat

(18) during the third period at the United Center. Chicago won 1-0 in OT. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Artemi Panarin

This will be The Bread Man’s second game with the captain and Garbutt on the top line. He earned an assist against the Kings, and the line was making things happen throughout the evening. Panarin is a very good puck facilitator, and it will come in handy tonight while he’s playing alongside Garbutt and Toews. Both of the latter two players have no problem jamming their bodies into the crease for a dirty goal, and Panarin can set those up at will. Additionally, Panarin has shown a bit of a mean streak at times so far, engaging in extracurriculars at different points through the first 12 games. If he isn’t careful with that against the Blues, he’ll end up getting ragdolled by one of their buffoons and probably putting the Blackhawks at a disadvantage, whether it be through a penalty kill or just having Panarin off the ice. It’d be a good night for Panarin to stay within himself and worry about producing points.

Ryan Hartman

Hartman’s statline from Monday’s game is pretty loaded for a guy who played a team-least 9:19: minus-1 rating, 1 shot, 3 hits, 1 blocked shot, 1 giveaway, 2 takeaways. This is the kind of game in which Hartman could break the seal and score his first NHL goal. Hartman isn’t a big guy, but he’s always played bigger than his size without a second thought. His bruising style could help free up pucks for linemates Dano and Kero, and he could end up the recipient of some nice playmaking from the two. He’ll probably also be put in a headlock at least once tonight. I’m curious to see how he specifically fares, though how the entire third line does against a fierce in-conference opponent is certainly worth watching.

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