The NHL Department of Player Safety announced Sunday that Blackhawks forward Drake Caggiula has been suspended for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers after delivering an illegal check to the head on Edmonton Oilers forward Tyler Ennis in Game 1.
Caggiula logged only 11:25 of ice time on Saturday but registered four hits and one blocked shot in the 6-4 win. He was slotted in as the left wing on the third line with Kirby Dach and Alex DeBrincat.
The Blackhawks traveled to Edmonton with 27 skaters, which means they'll have several options on who could take Caggiula's spot in the lineup on Monday.
Head coach Jeremy Colliton said in a video conference call on Sunday afternoon that a decision has not been made yet, probably because Caggiula's suspension was announced minutes before his media availability.
"We wish we had him in the lineup, but we won't," Colliton said. "Someone has to go in and make a difference. I don't know who it's going to be yet."
The five forwards to choose from are MacKenzie Entwistle, Brandon Hagel, Philipp Kurashev, John Quenneville and Dylan Sikura. Entwistle and Kurashev are the two players from this group who have yet to appear in an NHL game.
If the Blackhawks are looking to add another skilled player on a line that already includes Dach and DeBrincat, Sikura is the no-brainer pick. He played top-line minutes in Rockford this season and had a strong showing during the team scrimmages in training camp 2.0, particularly when he stepped in for Jonathan Toews on the first line and power-play unit during the captain's brief absence.
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Sikura also has the most NHL experience (47 games) of the five candidates, which means he could comfortably step right in and not feel out of place. That's important in the playoffs.
If the Blackhawks are looking to replace Caggiula with someone who plays a similar style, Hagel fits that script. He led the IceHogs this season in goals (19) and scored most of them in front of the net. He's a grinder who could go to the dirty areas to help retrieve pucks if that's what the Blackhawks feel best complements Dach and DeBrincat.
The downside is, Hagel has just one regular-season game under his belt, so there would likely be a feeling out period that the Blackhawks may not be able to afford.
It should be noted that Quenneville is the only player of the five who has postseason experience in the pros, although it's a very limited sample size. He registered four points (three goals, one assist) in four games for the AHL's Albany Devils in 2016-17.
The Oilers recorded 47 hits in Game 1; their hits per 60-minute average during the regular season was 22.2. They were more physical than usual, but you wonder how much of that had to do with the fact they didn't have the puck much at even strength.
That's something Colliton and his coaching staff will discuss when deciding who could be the forward to step in for Caggiula on Monday.
"It’s established a standard for how they’re going to deal with those types of hits," Colliton said. "As the series goes on I’m sure it’s going to get a little more physical, so now we know."