The preseason continues tonight as the Chicago Blackhawks faceoff against the Detroit Red Wings in an Original Six showdown at the United Center.
While the kids provided the offense in their 5-2 preseason opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday night, the Blackhawks will be icing their big guns and top prospects tonight in front of the home faithful. Team captain Jonathan Toews, who is included in the roster released this morning, will not be playing tonight due to illness. He will be replaced on the top line by free agent signing David Kampf. Kampf had a good game Tuesday night, centering the top line and winning 53% of his faceoffs in 17 minutes of ice time.
3 Things to Watch:
The Era of DeBrincat
Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat will make his preseason debut tonight. DeBrincat, who was drafted in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft, is the Hawks’ top prospect. He spent last season dominating the Ontario Hockey League, scoring 65 goals and netting 62 assists in 63 games. While some are arguing that he should begin the season down in Rockford to hone his game better, the prognosticators are duly noting the fact that DeBrincat has spent the last seven days of camp in a line with Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz. DeBrincat will be the first to remind everyone that he hasnt even played a preseason game yet this year, as to maybe tamper the expectations a little bit. But the Hawks brass would have a tough decision to make if DeBrincat shines this preseason.
The Boys are Back in Town
Tonight marks the return of two fan favorites to United Center ice. Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad, both casualties of the 2015 version of the yearly drama that is “Hawks Cap-o-caplyse”, are making their second debuts as Blackhawks players. Speaking about this past Saturday’s Training Camp Festival, Sharp noted that he “feels like I never left”. While some pundits are wondering about Sharp’s fitness since he came from surgery this summer, he can use these preseason tilts to quiet the naysayers. Saad, for his part, has stated that he looks to “pick up where we left off”, regarding the chemistry he built playing in Toews’ left wing. I for one expect for the magic between 19 and 20 to still be there, for the sake of my fantasy hockey team. But that’s for another story.
Connor Murphy’s debut
Newly acquired D-man Connor Murphy will also make his Blackhawks debut tonight. Acquired from the Arizona Coyotes in a trade that sent D-man and fan favorite Niklas Hjalmarsson to the deserts of the Southwest, Murphy is eager to prove his worth with the Blackhawks:
“My initial mindset is to be on the defensive side, I think,” Murphy said in an interview with The Athletic. “Obviously you get caught sometimes. I think my natural instincts are usually on the defensive side, so I’m not going to have to second-guess on what to do because it’s nice as a pairing, you know you’re just going to have your head up and know where your partner is and read off that. So there’s no crystal ball on how things always are going to play out, but it’s definitely nice to have the balance if one guy’s going to be more offensive, the other has a defensive mindset, too.”
Duncan Keith, who will be with Murphy as Chicago’s top pairing, seems to agree.
“I like him,” Keith said to The Athletic. “He’s a big, strong guy and I’ve always played my best hockey with a bigger strong guy with a right-handed shot. He brings an element of physicality to our team that I don’t think we’ve had, especially on the back end, in a long time.”
Puck-drop will be around 730pm tonight at the UC.