After a forgettable game against the Arizona Coyotes inside of a 5,000 seat college arena, the Chicago Blackhawks have earned some much needed rest. In what can only be described as a whirlwind first few weeks of the season (having already played 9 games and been on the road for all but 2 of them), the Hawks will host the Florida Panthers.
Florida is coming off a year in which they reached the Stanley Cup final as well as now 2 seasons removed from being the President's Trophy team for the 2021-2022 campaign. The Panthers are loaded once again and are led by Aleksander Barkov, Matthew Tkachuk, and Sam Reinhart. All 3 forwards are off to great starts as well.
Unbeaten in regulation in their last 3 games (2-0-1) it seems that the Cats have found their rhythem once again. On the Blackhawks side for the matchup will be the travel aspect. Chicago will have a full 4 days of no games with 5 days in between the on ice tilts. Florida on the other hand will be playing their 3rd game in a row traveling from Boston to Detroit to Chicago for Saturday's event.
Hopefully the recent play against "contenders" such as Vegas and Toronto will play into the Hawks effort against a team of the Panthers' recent success. Questions abound though for Chicago entering the weekend:
1. Will Lukas Reichel's position be changed (from C to wing) ?
2. Will Andreas Athanasiou be healthy scratched again?
3. Will the dip in play from our net minders continue?
Anyway you look at it, I believe this upcoming 2-game home stand could be a crucial part of the narrative of this season. In comes the Panthers and Devils, both of whom have vastly more talented rosters, and I believe if the Blackhawks fall to 3-8 it could spell yet another "when is the draft" season ahead. Before anyone discounts these matchups though, just remember the wins on the road against Toronto and Vegas... The Blackhawks can compete with anyone and win.