DENVER – Michael Paliotta will make his NHL debut and Scott Darling will get the start in goal when the Blackhawks complete their regular-season schedule against the Colorado Avalanche tonight.
The Blackhawks didn't have to wait for this game to find out their playoff fate: with St. Louis’ victory over Minnesota this afternoon, the Blackhawks will face Nashville in the first round. Dates and times will be announced later.
Now with all that settled, do the Blackhawks rest a player or two? Coach Joel Quenneville said he “could” do that if little rode on this game, which is the case now. Still, the Blackhawks have just one extra defenseman and forward, so there won’t be many regulars taking the night off.
For Paliotta, it’s a chance to play in a game that could very well have some meaning. Either way, it means plenty to him.
“Obviously, I’ve worked really hard my whole life for an opportunity like this,” he said following morning skate. “At the same time it’s another hockey game. Everyone’s been saying to just play your game. Obviously I’m excited, anxious, but it should be a good night.”
Corey Crawford will get this final regular-season game off, which Quenneville said was the plan all along. That means Crawford’s next start will be about a week after his previous one (this past Thursday vs. the Blues).
“That was our mindset, Darls was going to play,” Quenneville said. “He’s won some big games for us on the road. You look back at that Rangers game, none bigger than that. He gets the start and Crow gets the rest to get ready [for the playoffs].”
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Crawford didn’t object to the decision.
“It’s good: get some rest and make sure that the energy is at 100 percent, not that isn’t anyway. But it’s always nice to get a little rest before it starts,” he said. “I feel really good about my game, pretty strong. There [are] always some things you’ve got to adjust or adjust for against certain teams. Right now I feel probably the best I felt all year."
— Patrick Kane continues to skate back in Chicago but has still not been cleared for contact. Asked if Kane could return for the first round of the playoffs, Quenneville said, “tough to say. I love his progress that he’s putting forth, he feels good. It’s up to the clearance and we’ll go from there.”
— Marcus Kruger should be back tonight against the Avalanche. Kruger missed Thursday’s game against the Blues due to illness.
— Brad Richards and Kimmo Timonen, both out with upper-body injuries, are skating back in Chicago.
— David Rundblad looked to be the possible healthy scratch on defense tonight.