Chicago Blackhawks’ Toews, Anisimov, DeBrincat Lead Squad To Detroit

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 29: Jonathan Toews
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 29: Jonathan Toews /

Preseason game No. 5 of six for the Chicago Blackhawks takes place tonight in Detroit, and it will feature fewer regulars than some other contests have

Are you interested in watching Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad, Nick Schmaltz, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford play hockey tonight for the Chicago Blackhawks? Well, you won’t get to.

The Blackhawks are heading to Detroit for their fifth preseason game of six, against the soon-to-be-lowly Red Wings. Chicago thumped a mostly-AHL team of Wings 6-1 earlier this month in preseason action while playing most of its projected regular roster.

Tonight, the Blackhawks will be sending what no one would mistake for an NHL roster, though there are key players among the group. Leading that charge would be Jonathan Toews, Artem Anisimov and super-prospect Alex DeBrincat.

Let’s take a look at tonight’s roster, courtesy CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers:

And here’s some anticipated forward lines for tonight, also courtesy Myers:

Forwards to watch for tonight

DeBrincat continues to get looks as though he may start the season in Chicago. He’s taking Saad’s typical slot alongside Toews and Richard Panik on the top line.

I’ll be genuinely curious to see the results of this. No matter what kind of team Detroit ices tonight, its defense will not be up to snuff. DeBrincat is certainly not the power forward Saad is, but he offers more playmaking ability. That could translate to some nifty scoring chances for Toews around the circles and Panik closer to the net.

I see Vinnie Hinostroza and John Hayden on the second line with Anisimov, and my immediate thought is that coach Joel Quenneville is trying to give these two a chance to prove they deserve an NHL spot on opening night.

The two youngsters should be getting top-six minutes on that line (which they wouldn’t should they make the roster), so Q wants to see what all he can get from them. And pairing them with a center in Anisimov who was working with Kane and Artemi Panarin in the past should enhance the play of Hayden and Hinostroza.

On the fourth line, David Kampf has an important night ahead of him. I think he’s a roster bubble boy who Q foresees as a bottom-six center on opening night. Kampf has been getting top-six minutes in spots this preseason to show his worth. Now he’s being slotted into a role in which he’d most likely should he crack the roster — a reverse of Hayden and Hinostroza.

This could be Tomas Jurco‘s last stand as well. He hasn’t looked amazing in the preseason, and roster spots are scarce. Even though he’s on the fourth line here, he’ll need to turn in a workmanlike performance tonight.

On the defense and goaltending

I don’t think there’s a whole lot to report on the defense front, other than Jan Rutta is finally getting a game off. After playing (and playing generally well) in the first four preseason contests, I think Rutta has secured an opening night roster bid.

Cody Franson gets another shot to prove he deserved to be signed full time once the season starts. Jordan Oesterle, Ville Pokka and Erik Gustafsson could see this as an important game as well, though, should Marian Hossa‘s long-term injured reserve situation get wonky, leaving the Blackhawks unable to sign Franson full time.

On the goaltending side, this game is going to Anton Forsberg. He was impressive in the preseason opener against Columbus and appears locked in to the backup position. J.F. Berube is also traveling, giving Crow the finale against Boston on Saturday.

Next: Studying Up On Blackhawks' 2017-18 Offerings

So if you have some free time tonight and are curious to see some (mostly forward) roster position battles, hit up NHL Network (if not blacked out) or CSN Chicago Plus at 6:30 p.m. You can always listen on WGN Radio as well.