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Chicago Blackhawks’ Schmaltz Out Tonight As Murphy Draws In

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CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 07: Connor Murphy
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 07: Connor Murphy /
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The Chicago Blackhawks will still be without their second-line center tonight against the Minnesota Wild, while they’ve decided to make another change on the blue line

For all those Chicago Blackhawks fans (this writer included) hoping to see Nick Schmaltz return tonight against the Minnesota Wild, those hopes apparently have been dashed.

“Doesn’t look good tonight” usually isn’t some kind of secret code, so we can assume Schmaltz’s injury will keep him out of a third consecutive complete game. Considering he went out very early against Columbus last week, it’s almost like he’s missed four straight contests.

While the Blackhawks have gotten seven out of a possible eight points so far this season, it’s clear the team is missing Schmaltz. The dynamic line of Ryan Hartman-Schmaltz-Patrick Kane has turned into a much more sedentary and irresponsible line with Artem Anisimov at center.

That’s not to say Anisimov is the root of all evil here, but Hartman has been a turnover machine with Schmaltz out, and Kane looks entirely disinterested without having another east-west player on his line. He went from Artemi Panarin to Schmaltz to no one, at least temporarily.

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It sounds like Schmaltz could be good to go Saturday against Nashville, though you know the Predators won’t take it easy on him. Schmaltz has been hurt in both of the games he’s played this season, though there’s a fair chance his injury against Columbus was just a reaggravation of a ding suffered in the opener against Pittsburgh.

The Blackhawks need Schmaltz back sooner rather than later to balance the lines, but you also don’t want to rush a young star this early in the season. Make sure he’s good to go before getting him back on the ice.

Tonight’s forward lines

Before we shift to the defensive change this evening, let’s look at the lines Chicago appears likely to roll out, courtesy NBC Sports Chicago’s Tracey Myers.

For those who aren’t really great remembering player numbers:

Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsRichard Panik

Ryan Hartman-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Patrick SharpTanner KeroAlex DeBrincat

Lance BoumaTommy WingelsJohn Hayden

So nothing is changing from how Tuesday’s game against Montreal kicked off, which is interesting considering the Blackhawks were beaten around pretty badly. That was especially true in the first period, when these lines held together, as the Canadiens posted a 63.16 Corsi-for rate. That’s hideous.

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  • Maybe the hope for coach Joel Quenneville is that having last change at home will give him better matchups that can at least tilt the ice to even possession. Let’s hope so, because Minnesota, despite getting just a point out of its first two games, is still averaging three goals per contest thus far.

    On the defensive end

    Coach Q has decided to insert Connor Murphy back into the lineup tonight, replacing Cody Franson on the back end. Franson made his regular-season debut Tuesday in place of Murphy.

    Franson had an OK showing, coming up with an assist off a nice touch pass but also committing two penalties and one egregious turnover. Murphy was more or less existing in the Blackhawks’ first three games, which I think we can all accept at this point as the defense tries to work out its kinks.

    While the Blackhawks have allowed just seven goals in the first four contests, that’s been largely achieved on the back of strong goaltending from Corey Crawford and Anton Forsberg. Crow will garner the start tonight, opposing a so-far-leaky Devan Dubnyk for the Wild.

    As Blackhawk Up’s Tim Martens pointed out yesterday that the Blackhawks can’t expect to get this good of goaltending forever. While Crow is clearly a strong (if underappreciated) netminder and Forsberg looks good so far as a backup, the two have just been on so far. It won’t always be that straightforward.

    Hopefully the Blackhawks are closer to settling on a defensive group moving forward. Gustav Forsling hasn’t been very good yet but can’t seem to get himself benched, while Jordan Oesterle randomly remains riding the pine through what will be five games.

    Next: Is Panik A True Top-Six Forward?

    Tonight’s game starts at 7:30 p.m. from the United Center and can be seen on NBC Sports Chicago and heard on WGN Radio 720-AM.

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