With 4 full days off (and 5 total inbetween the last game and tonight) the Blackhawks are getting some good news this morning. Taylor Hall looks like he'll be back in the lineup tonight as well as some reports that Alex Vlasic (concussion protocol) is doing some light skating.
Without the former #1 overall pick and Hart Trophy winner Hall in the lineup, the Hawks appeared to lack that true complimentary piece for Connor Bedard to rely on when on a rush attack. Chicago will certainly need the help as the Panthers come in red hot with a 3-0-1 record in their last 4 matchups.
According to Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST on X) it appears that Petr Mrazek should start in net when the Cats and Hawks do battle. After an embarrassing 8-1 loss in Arizona coach Coach Luke Richardson should expect a more consistent effort on home ice from his backend (defense and goalie).
After tonight, it doesn't get any easier as the New Jersey Devils, a potential Cup contender, enter into the United Center tomorrow. The Devils will likely be without superstar center Jack Hughes as the young center was injured in the 1st period against the St. Louis Blues (a game that they lost 4-1). It is unknown at the time of this writing the severity of the injury (upper body injury is the listing).
Anyway you want to look at this weekend I will emphatically state these next 2 games could potentially define the season for the young Hawks. At 3-6 and coming off a devastating loss, another two losses could spell an early season deficit that will be difficult to climb out of.
While the expectation for the season was not to make the playoffs for most fans, I for one am looking at an improved roster that should maintain a consistent effort and result throughout the season. At 3-8 I believe the Hawks could view the start of the season as another year in which they sell off assets at the deadline (or perhaps earlier). I do not want this to happen, I want to see competitive hockey every game and I believe this weekend's homestand goes a long way into that scenario holding firm.
Win tonight 3-2.