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3 Chicago Blackhawks To Watch Vs. Hell’s Warriors

By Colin Likas
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OK, the title might be a little extreme, but it’s not fun to just say “the Devils” or “New Jersey.” But the Chicago Blackhawks will complete their regular-season series against the New Jersey Devils tonight at the United Center. It’ll be the Blackhawks’ first game since Sunday, a 4-2 triumph against the Edmonton Oilers.

The Blackhawks will be looking for a measure of revenge after looking pretty bad against the Devils on Friday, falling 4-2 at Prudential Center. The real Blackhawks began to show up late in the contest, but there wasn’t nearly enough time left to completely overcome the 4-0 hole the team put itself in.

Let’s take a look at the projected lineups for both sides, starting with the Blackhawks.

Andrew Shaw-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa

Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Marko Dano-Tanner Kero-Teuvo Teravainen

Brandon Mashinter-Marcus Kruger-Andrew Desjardins

Viktor Svedberg-Brent Seabrook

Niklas Hjalmarsson-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Trevor Daley-Erik Gustafsson

Corey Crawford-Scott Darling

The second and third lines remain the same, while Joel Quenneville tries to give recent call-up Mashinter some exposure, and perhaps give the fourth line some offensive spark. Mashinter isn’t necessarily the direct answer to that issue, but there’s always a chance he meshes well with Kruger and Desjardins and makes magic. Meanwhile, Shaw moves up to the first line to, hopefully, park himself in front of Cory Schneider to help Toews and Hossa pot some goals.

Ryan Garbutt and Viktor Tikhonov are out on the offensive side, while David Rundblad continues to sit on defense. As the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus was tweeting about today, this is probably the last game we see the six-man defensive group we’ve grown accustomed to over the last few weeks. Duncan Keith could return Saturday, and Michal Rozsival is also nearing a return. Who that leaves out is a convoluted discussion for another post.

On to the Devils, courtesy beat writer Tom Gulitti:

Mike Cammalleri-Adam Henrique-Lee Stempniak

Sergey Kalinin-Travis Zajac-Kyle Palmieri

Stefan Matteau-Jacob Josefson-Jordin Tootoo

Bobby Farnham-Brian Gionta-Brian O’Neill

Andy Greene-Adam Larsson

John Moore-Damon Severson

Jon Merrill-David Schlemko

Cory Schneider-Keith Kinkaid

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Defenseman Eric Gelinas could slot in for Merrill, if Gulitti’s tweets are any indication. The only difference right now, though for the Devils from Thursday’s game against the Blackhawks is Matteau coming in for Jiri Tlusty, who is dealing with some sort of shoulder ailment.

The Blackhawks will want to get way more rubber on Schneider than the 29 shots they managed Thursday, with many of those coming late in the contest. The defense and bottom six forwards are able to be exposed, especially when Coach Q can dictate the matchups at home.

Let’s now look at three Blackhawks to watch tonight.

Oct 1, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Mashinter (53) checks St. Louis Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo (41) during the third period at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Mashinter

Like everyone else ahead of their first game off a call-up from Rockford, Mashinter gets this spot of the post. It’ll be interesting to see how much ice time he gets tonight, and how he fares working alongside Kruger and Desjardins, guys who are often relied on for defense but who know how to send the puck the opposite direction (though they’re still looking to dent the scoresheet this season). To be fair, Shaw isn’t exactly a defensive dynamo, and the line didn’t seem to suffer terribly from him being on it. So Mashinter doesn’t have to be lights out. I’m thinking he’s been placed on this line more so to see if he can produce something offensively. But a good two-way game is also the fastest way to more starts from Q, so we should closely watch his play on both sides of the ice.

Oct 30, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Trevor Daley (6) against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Blackhawks 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Trevor Daley

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I mentioned above that we probably won’t be seeing tonight’s six-man defensive unit anymore moving forward, but who makes up the new six-man team isn’t totally clear at this point. While there’s pretty much no chance Daley is being moved off the roster, he could very well be benched after the Blackhawks do their maneuverings to get Keith (and later Rozsival) back in the fold. It would be understandable, too, as Daley just hasn’t played well so far with his new team. He’s proven defensively irresponsible, and the offense that was supposed to somewhat make up for this hasn’t manifested, as Daley has just three assists in 15 games. And when he’s getting a massive number of his starts in the offensive zone (19.31 percentage of offensive to defensive zone starts), that just shouldn’t be the case. He’s also just a plus-1 while Gustafsson, who has a comparable zone-start percentage (14.33) is a plus-4 with only one fewer assist in 10 fewer games. In short, Daley needs to step up his play and step it up quickly, or Stan Bowman may start getting very creative with his roster.

Nov 8, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) makes a save against the Edmonton Oilers during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Corey Crawford

Thursday’s loss against the Devils should not be pinned on Crow. His team did very little to help him defensively (or offensively), and it wound up looking a lot like Game 1 of the Nashville series earlier this year, just without the comeback win later. Crow bounced back nicely against Edmonton, when his team again abandoned him defensively for stretches. You know Crow would like to shut down the Devils less than a week after getting pulled against them, and the Blackhawks have pretty much needed Crow to be great or better in order to win games lately. With the circus trip rapidly approaching, Crow will want to use this week’s games as a tune-up to get ready for the grueling road grind.

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