The stakes are nowhere near the height they were a few months ago but the Blackhawks still consider it big when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday night at the United Center.
The Blackhawks, who beat the Lightning in Chicago in mid-June to win their third Stanley Cup in six seasons, want to build off their 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers.
“Both teams still want to win, still want to prove themselves to each other, considering where we were last spring,” Jonathan Toews said. “We improved a little bit [Thursday] and we’ll need another jump in our pace in the way we’ve been playing lately if we want to find a way to win that game.”
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The Blackhawks will go with the same lineup as Thursday, which means Bryan Bickell is expected to be a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game. Corey Crawford gets the start.
The Lightning, who beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-3 in overtime on Friday night, did not skate on Saturday morning. Tampa media reports that goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis was recalled from Syracuse and could start. Gudlevskis is remembered for his 55-stop performance for the Latvian national team vs. Team Canada in the 2014 Winter Olympics. If Gudlevskis starts, the Blackhawks said they approach facing him the same they would any other goaltender.
“Every goalie in this league is a good goaltender. So you’ve got to get traffic to the net, put pucks there,” Andrew Shaw said. “Goalies are usually excited to play their first game [of the season], so I’m sure he’s going to play well. We’ll take his vision away as fast as possible.”
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Unlike the Blackhawks, who went through plenty of changes this offseason, the Lightning didn’t really go through any.
“Most teams have one or two lines you have to be concerned with. Tonight’s team is deeper and they have a real active back end so it’s going to be an ongoing challenge,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It’ll be a good test for some of our young defensemen as well. [It’s] definitely one of the better teams in the league.”