Artemi Panarin returns to lineup as Blackhawks host Ducks


Artemi Panarin returns to lineup as Blackhawks host Ducks

After missing the last two games with an illness, Artemi Panarin will return to the lineup when the Blackhawks host the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night.

During his absence, the Blackhawks were shut out by the San Jose Sharks at home, and followed that up with a 4-2 loss against their division rival Dallas Stars, going more than five periods without scoring a goal.

It was the first time the Blackhawks lost back-to-back home games all season, and they're looking to get back on track with Panarin's return.

"He's been an important player for us right from the outset there, but he's dangerous," Coach Joel Quenneville said on what Panarin brings to the table after the team's optional morning skate. "He gives that line another threat and our offense was a little light the last two games. He's dangerous offensively.

"That line's been consistent and we'll give him some credit for us missing him a little bit but we need to be better than we were across the board."

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Another player that may give the Blackhawks some additional jump is Jiri Sekac, who will clash against his former team for the first time since being traded by the Ducks for Ryan Garbutt in January.

It's the second time Sekac has been in this position in the past year after the Montreal Canadiens traded him to Anaheim before last year's trade deadline.

But this time, he had an idea that change could be coming.

"To be honest, I thought it could've happened," Sekac said. "The Ducks needed some kind of wake-up call and there were trades going around. Anybody could've gotten traded at that time. I was waiting for anything and when it actually happened, you just go with it. You just accept it and move on."

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While it helps that Sekac has been in this situation before, it doesn't change the motive of playing against the team that didn't believe in your abilities.

"Last year when I got traded, we actually played the Canadiens a week later, so I've already been in this situation," Sekac said. "It's always fun to play against a team like that. This gives you a little extra push kind of just to prove they were wrong, so that's what I'm going to try and do."

The trade has arguably benefited both sides, with Garbutt scoring three goals, including two game-winners, in his first eight games with the Ducks while Sekac joined a Blackhawks team that suits his style of play.

"This team is very skilled and (an) offensively-minded team," Sekac said. "Everybody would love to play on a team like this."

Quenneville also indicated that there will be "a couple adjustments" on both the forward lines and defensive pairings, starting with Michal Rozsival and recently-recalled Viktor Svedberg, both of whom will draw into the lineup. It appears Erik Gustafsson will be a healthy scratch.

NHL Draft Profile: D Evan Bouchard

NHL Draft Profile: D Evan Bouchard

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Evan Bouchard

Position: Defenseman
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 193 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"A highly intelligent defenseman with exceptional vision and offensive instincts. He reads the play very well and his passing ability allows him to be a constant threat in his team's transition game. He's one of the top offensive-defenseman in the Canadian Hockey League and magician-like when quarterbacking the power play."

NHL player comparable: John Carlson/Alex Pietrangelo

Fit for Blackhawks:

At 6-foot-2, 193 pounds, Bouchard is one of the most NHL-ready defensemen in this year's draft and that could be appetizing for a team like the Blackhawks, who are looking for immediate help on the blue line. But Bouchard is a right-handed shot, and drafting him would add a third high-end right-handed shot defenseman to the organization, along with prospects Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell.

You can never have enough of them, but there's only room for three before somebody would have to play on their off hand and that would mean the third would be playing on the bottom pairing. All three of these players have Top 4 potential.

Still, that may not even come into play here. The Blackhawks will seek to take the best available player, like they always have. And if they feel it's Bouchard, they'll do it.

NHL Draft Profile: F Brady Tkachuk

NHL Draft Profile: F Brady Tkachuk

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Brady Tkachuk

Position: Forward
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 196 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"I know Tkachuk isn't a center, but Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) is another player who comes to mind with his combination of size, strength, skill and nastiness. Tkachuk has impressive hand skills and his upside has only begun because I think there's lots of maturity and growth to come. I've seen his speed and skating improve each of the past three years and I think he'll still get stronger and his balance will get better. His man strength will come and it'll be like, 'Oh boy, look out.'"

NHL player comparable: Matthew Tkachuk/Wayne Simmonds

Fit for Blackhawks:

If you're looking for a player that checks all the boxes in this year's draft, it's Tkachuk. And man could the Blackhawks use a player like him.

He's got offensive skill, willingly goes to the greasy areas, can provide net-front presence while playing a top-six role, and perhaps the most important part for the Blackhawks: he's very close to NHL ready. The Blackhawks will be patient with whoever they draft, but there's also some urgency to turn things around in 2018-19.

If they can draft a player like Tkachuk who can potentially jump into the lineup as early as this upcoming season, that would be ideal. Because he's the type of player that can make an impact, not just get by.