The Chicago Blackhawks are headed to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for their first preseason game tomorrow night, where they will play the Edmonton Oilers. The game, while not available on TV in Chicago, is going to be streaming on the Hawks’ official team website, and it will provide fans’ first glimpse into some of the changes that the team has made this off-season.
Big name players like Marian Hossa (who is finally reporting to camp tomorrow after attending Pavol Demitra’s funeral last week, as well as attending the birth of his daughter), Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Patrick Kane will not be making the trip up to Canada, but there is still plenty to pay attention to as the team suits up against an actual opponent for the first time since April:
First Round of Cuts Made With No Real Surprises
The Blackhawks cut their roster down to 54 players on Monday night, sending 2010 2nd Round draft pick Ludvig Rensfeldt packing, along with forward Mirko Hoefflin, and goaltenders Mac Carruth, Johan Mattsson, and Kent Simpson. All of these players are 19 years of age and had very little chance of making the big club, but especially with guys like Simpson and Rensfeldt, you will likely see them making a splash in the NHL within the next couple of years.
Patrick Kane: Scrimmage Superstar
One of the biggest surprises in the first few days of camp has been how prevalent sightings of the injured Patrick Kane have been. At the team’s Training Camp Festival on Saturday, Kane surprised the crowd by taking a shot in a shootout, and he put down a beautiful move to score a goal. On Sunday, Kane actually suited up for a scrimmage, and he scored two goals and looked largely in shape, showing just how dedicated he has been to maintaining his cardiovascular health while rehabbing his injured left wrist, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him actually get into a couple of pre-season games at this point.
Much has been made this week about the long road back from a concussion that forward Jeremy Morin has been on. He has been practicing with the team this weekend, but he hasn’t been involved in any scrimmages as of yet. He expressed frustration to Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times about the fact that he hasn’t gotten a chance to really show off his skills to Hawks brass, but was quick to mention that he understands the need to get back to 100% health instead of rushing back.
Morin suffered the concussion while playing for the Rockford IceHogs last January, but he made quite the impact while he was with the big club. He scored twice in nine NHL games, and he impressed fans and coaches alike with his offensive abilities and his defensive responsibility. It will be interesting to see whether or not he will make his way into scrimmages or pre-season games, but odds are he will begin the season in Rockford at this point.
Biggest Things to Watch For Tuesday Night
Here are the big storylines to pay attention to if you feel the fleeting fancy to check out the Hawks’ game tomorrow night:
-The Toews brothers will be on the ice together for the first time since they were kids. Jonathan and David will both be playing against the Oilers since they were both born and raised in nearby Winnipeg, and it will be David’s first game with the Hawks after being acquired from the Islanders in August. It will be interesting to see whether or not head coach Joel Quenneville will get the two of them on the ice together.
-The battle for the back-up goaltending spot behind Corey Crawford will take center stage in Canada tomorrow night, as Ray Emery and Alexander Salak will split the goalie duties. According to various reports, Emery has the inside track due to his veteran experience, but it sure seems like Quenneville will give both guys equal time in an effort to determine his best option to wear the baseball cap this season.
-There will be some forwards who will expect to make the big club that will play tomorrow night, including new additions Jamal Mayers and Rostislav Olesz. A couple of the team’s top prospects on the offensive side of the puck will be on the ice as well, including first round draft picks Kyle Beach (2009) and Mark McNeill (2011). All of those guys are worth keeping an eye on.
-Two players that definitely will make some fireworks happen in an effort to impress Hawks’ brass will be 2011 draftee Brandon Saad and forward Viktor Stalberg, who is arguably the team’s biggest example of unmet potential. Both players have some serious offensive game, and while Saad likely isn’t a real candidate to make the roster, Stalberg will be trying to establish himself as a top-six forward on a team in need of some offensive punch.
-On defense, there are only a couple of surefire starters making the trip, as youngster Nick Leddy and veteran Steve Montador will both be suiting up. Perhaps the biggest names to keep an eye on are two guys who will be looking to be on the team in a back-up role, as John Scott and new free agent acquisition Sami Lepisto will both be on the ice for Chicago.
-The Hawks have two more preseason games (Thursday in Pittsburgh, Friday at home against Washington) before their first televised tilt of the preseason, with the Detroit Red Wings and Joe Louis Arena being the backdrop on Sunday. The game starts at 4pm Central, so you’ll be able to check it out at halftime of the Packers-Bears tilt (or sooner if they put forth an effort like they did against New Orleans on Sunday). The game will be on WGN-TV.