Blackhawks News

3 Chicago Blackhawks To Watch Against Anaheim Hitters

By Colin Likas

How many hits will it take for the Chicago Blackhawks to falter today, never to be seen again in NHL action? That’s probably the question noted dunderhead Ryan Kesler is asking himself ahead of today’s game, and that’s probably part of the reason he has half as many points (9) as penalty minutes (18) to go with a minus-11 rating.

And that’s how I introduce to you the Anaheim Ducks, who have fallen on hard times after coming up just a game short of a Stanley Cup Final trip in the 2015 postseason. The Ducks started the season cold offensively, and while things are still pretty rough, their goaltending and defense have also taken a dive of late. The Ducks hold the fifth spot in the Pacific Division with just 20 points (8-11-4), and they have the fewest goals in the lead with 45 in 23 games. They also have a minus-17 goal differential. So things aren’t great right now in Southern California.

Let’s take a look at the projected lineups for today’s 4 p.m. start, beginning with the Blackhawks.

Andrew ShawJonathan ToewsRyan Garbutt

Artemi Panarin-Artem AnisimovPatrick Kane

Marko Dano-Marcus KrugerMarian Hossa

Brandon MashinterTanner KeroAndrew Desjardins

Niklas HjalmarssonDuncan Keith

Brent SeabrookTrevor van Riemsdyk

Michal RozsivalTrevor Daley

Corey CrawfordScott Darling

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Joel Quenneville told media sources yesterday that the injured Teuvo Teravainen, who has missed the last three games with a minor upper-body injury, could play against Anaheim. If he does, I’d like to think that draws out Mashinter, but every time I try to hypothetically remove him from the lineup he manages to stay in. So you should just know Teuvo has a chance tonight, and if he doesn’t, he could play Saturday against the Kings.

For now, everything looks the same tonight as it did Wednesday in San Jose. Crawford is slated to draw the start after bouncing back nicely against a hot Sharks squad. Guys like van Riemsdyk and Daley are coming off strong outings as well, so maybe the defensive struggles the Blackhawks had experienced of late will soon become a thing of the past.

Let’s move on to the Ducks.

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Nick Ritchie-Ryan Kesler-Jakob Silfverberg

Carl HagelinShawn HorcoffAndrew Cogliano

Patrick MaroonMike SantorelliChris Stewart

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Sami VatanenClayton Stoner

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

John GibsonAnton Khudobin

What in the world is this? Rakell, who saw barely any action in the Western Conference finals as a fourth-liner, has earned the lottery spot next to Getzlaf and Voldemort of late. Considering he’s fourth on the team with 10 points, that’s probably necessary. Maroon, meanwhile, who gave the Blackhawks fits in the playoffs, is now on the fourth line. Bruce Boudreau could switch that up tonight with that past history, but he’s as stubborn as Coach Q with his roster management, so don’t expect it.

Matt Beleskey‘s offseason departure seems to be a heavy one now, as the Ducks have forced their 2014 first-round pick in Ritchie on to the second line. Pairing him with Kesler hasn’t produced much so far, but that’s probably because Ritchie and Silfverberg are left looking for their center on scoring plays while Kesler is off trying to hit people.

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Hagelin was thought to be a missing piece for the Ducks to make a Cup run, but he has just five points in 23 games. The defense … woof. If you have Fowler and Bieksa on your top pairing and Stoner on the second, your goaltenders better get their practice reps in ahead of every game. Speaking of goaltenders, Frederik Andersen appears likely to miss his third consecutive game with the flu, and Boudreau indicated Gibson will go tonight.

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

Nov 25, 2015; San Jose, CA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) passes against the San Jose Sharks in the 3rd period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports. The Chicago Blackhawks won 5-2

Jonathan Toews

Toews has looked pretty good over the last couple games, with the Shaw-Toews-Garbutt line surprising on the circus trip. It seems to bring a lot of energy in the form of a vicious forecheck and strong push to the net. Considering both the offensive success and occasional defensive struggles of Chicago’s second line, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Boudreau match the Getzlaf line against the Anisimov line. That would leave the Kesler line for the Toews line. You know Kesler will probably ask for that assignment ahead of time, as he thinks he’s some sort of personal kryptonite for Toews. If Toews can win the faceoff battle with Kesler, it should bode well for the first line and the Blackhawks, as Kesler will just spend the rest of the time trying to antagonize Toews. That typically fuels the captain, so he could have a big day.

Nov 25, 2015; San Jose, CA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa (81) and San Jose Sharks defenseman Matt Tennyson (80) vie for possession in the 3rd period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports. The Chicago Blackhawks won 5-2

Marian Hossa

Anaheim’s bottom six isn’t full of bums, by any means. But it is certainly underperforming, and there’s not much in it to suggest any sort of defensive domination. If the top two lines of both teams match up the way I think they will, that would leave a third line featuring Marian Hossa to take on the leftovers. Hossa had some fantastic chances in San Jose and seems a little fired up after his recent “demotion.” A motivated Marian Hossa against a team’s bottom six usually bodes well for the Blackhawks.

Nov 25, 2015; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns (88) trips Chicago Blackhawks left wing Artemi Panarin (72) in the first period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports.

Artemi Panarin

Against San Jose, Panarin had a slight case of the turnovers, as he would try to carry the puck through the neutral zone and get it taken off his stick. While the Blackhawks’ second line can keep the puck hemmed in their offensive zone for a minute or more at a time, they also had moments against the Sharks where they were trapped for that long. If that happens against a line featuring Getzlaf and Perry, it isn’t going to end well for Chicago. So for Panarin, the goal should be to make the simple play when possible if it helps the Blackhawks clear their defensive zone or get the puck deep. While Panarin has dazzled with his offense, he’s still adjusting to the North American game, and those sorts of things will come to him with time.