Niklas Hjalmarsson to return from suspension when Blackhawks take on Predators

Niklas Hjalmarsson to return from suspension when Blackhawks take on Predators

Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the lineup, and Marian Hossa and Artem Anisimov are also expected to play when the Blackhawks face the Nashville Predators on Friday night.

Hossa did not practice on Thursday, but coach Joel Quenneville said it was just a maintenance day. Anisimov started practice but left after a few minutes; Quenneville said it was just a “preventive” measure.

Corey Crawford will start vs. the Predators.

The Blackhawks tinkered with their lines on Thursday. Artemi Panarin moved to the top line with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik, while Tyler Motte moved up to the second line with Anisimov and Kane. Asked if those top two lines were altered due to Hossa’s absence or if they could be implemented in tomorrow’s game, Quenneville said, “we’re looking at it.”

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As for Hjalmarsson, he’s completed his three-game suspension for his preseason hit on St. Louis’ Ty Rattie. Quenneville would not say which defenseman would come out of the lineup for tomorrow’s game. Hjalmarsson, meanwhile, is ready to return.

“Very excited. It’s always a fun building to play in, too, in Nashville. It’s always loud and high-paced game,” he said. “So it’s going to be a tough challenge right away, but I’m excited and I’m looking forward to it.”

The Blackhawks could’ve used Hjalmarsson for every situation in their season-opening loss to St. Louis on Wednesday, including their penalty kill. Hjalmarsson did like what he saw from the Blackhawks’ young defensemen, Michal Kempny and Gustav Forsling.

“I thought both of them were very impressive. If you didn’t know it was their first game, you definitely wouldn’t have thought that it was their first game,” he said. “I think they played a really solid, solid game and as a lot of guys have said before this season, I think on the back end, we’re as deep as we have ever been. So it’s always good with competition. It keeps pushing everybody to be on their toes and be at their best to stay in the lineup. Hopefully that will be a healthy competition throughout the whole year.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?


Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: