After kicking off the season in Prague, the Blackhawks are back in Chicago and preparing for a seven-game homestand, which is their longest of the season. And it serves as a really good opportunity to start off the first month on a positive note.
All training camp long the Blackhawks have talked about getting off to a strong start because digging a hole is difficult to crawl out of in the Central Division. They saw it last year when they went through two eight-game losing streaks before the calendar reached mid-December.
"I think it gives us some motivation knowing we have seven home games coming up here," Patrick Kane said. "Take advantage of the start to the season and try to get hot."
Let's take a look at all seven opponents on the slate and how each of them has fared through the first week of the 2019-20 campaign:
Thursday, Oct. 10 vs. San Jose
The Sharks are 0-4-0 to start the season, have a league-worst -12 goal differential and are averaging 4.50 goals against per game. This is not how they envisioned the start of October going.
Goaltending will be a question mark all season long for the Sharks. They have an .871 save percentage at 5-on-5 through four games, which ranks second-worst, according to Natural Stat Trick. The 4.3 shooting percentage is the one that's likely to correct itself first.
Patrick Marleau signed a one-year contract with the Sharks on Tuesday, but it's unclear whether he'll draw into the lineup for Thursday's game.
Saturday, Oct. 12 vs. Winnipeg
The Jets' blue line is absolutely decimated. Ben Chiarot and Tyler Myers walked as unrestricted free agents. Jacob Trouba was traded for Neal Pionk. Dustin Byfuglien remains out as he contemplates retirement. Josh Morrissey has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury. And Dmitry Kulikov was granted a leave of absence as he tends to a personal matter.
Former Blackhawks defenseman Carl Dahlstrom, who was claimed off waivers before the season started, finished second among all skaters with 24:19 of ice time in the Jets' 4-1 win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday. That's where things are at in Winnipeg.
Monday, Oct. 14 vs. Edmonton
The Oilers were projected to miss the playoffs by many experts, but they've gotten off to a roaring 3-0-0 start. While they're recording the third-fewest shots on goal per game (26.7), they rank No. 2 in goals per game (4.67). Their team shooting percentage in all situations is 17.5, which is unsustainable over the course of an 82-game season, but all that matters right now is the fact that it's translated into earning six out of a possible six points to open the season.
James Neal leads the NHL with six goals, four of which came in Wednesday's game against the New York Islanders. He had seven goals total in 63 games last season with Calgary.
Friday, Oct. 18 vs. Columbus
The Blue Jackets had the roughest offseason out of any team. They lost two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, two-time 80-point scorer Artemi Panarin, All-Star Matt Duchene and another two-time 20-goal scorer in Ryan Dzingel. And got nothing in return.
John Tortorella-coached teams will always be difficult to play against, but they don't have nearly the amount of firepower they had last season. They're 1-2-0 with a -7 goal differential, which ranks last in the Eastern Conference.
Sunday, Oct. 20 vs. Washington
The Capitals have played four games so far and they have yet to lose a game in regulation. They're 2-0-2 and are giving up an average of only 25.5 shots against per game. They're also the league's best puck possession team, controlling 59.8 percent of the even-strength shot attempts.
But their goal differential is oddly 0, so they're not necessarily blowing teams out of the water. Still, this will be a difficult challenge for the Blackhawks and Evgeny Kuznetsov is back after a three-game suspension to start the season, which doesn't make things any easier.
Tuesday, Oct. 22 vs. Vegas
Arguably the top team in the Western Conference, the Golden Knights are a well-oiled machine and this might be the biggest test out of the entire homestand. They can score, they can defend, they're deep and they are tied for a league-best +6 goal differential.
The Golden Knights are 2-1-0 and rank in the Top 10 in goals per game (4.00), fewest goals against (2.00), power play percentage (30.0) and penalty kill (92.3). They've picked up right where they left off last season.
Thursday, Oct. 24 vs. Philadelphia
To wrap up the homestand, the Blackhawks have a chance to get a little bit of revenge on the Flyers, who took over in the second period and handed Chicago a 4-3 loss in the season opener overseas.
In the first meeting, the Flyers led in shot attempts (67-49), shots on goal (39-31), even-strength scoring chances (33-16) and even-strength high-danger chances (13-5). The Blackhawks are looking to flip-flop those numbers in the second meeting, and most importantly, the result too.