Blackhawks

Blackhawks prep for energetic Oilers

Blackhawks prep for energetic Oilers

A week ago, the Blackhawks rolled an Edmonton Oilers team that was lackluster coming off their bye week. Now the Blackhawks will try to avoid the same fate.

Corey Crawford will start and Michal Kempny returns to the lineup when the Blackhawks host the Oiler Saturday night at the United Center. The Blackhawks are coming off their six-day bye following their Ice Show trip, during which they went on a five-game winning streak.

The Oilers, meanwhile, have gotten their legs back under them. After falling to the Blackhawks, they rattled off a 5-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes and a 6-3 triumph over the Philadelphia Flyers. The Blackhawks don’t want to come off the bye week the way the Oilers did last Saturday.

“We had a really good game against Edmonton away. We have to play the same way here tonight, get to the same pace,” Dennis Rasmussen said. “But it’s really important to have short shifts in the beginning, being off a couple of days.”

Most teams haven’t been successful coming off the bye week. Here’s the breakdown of how teams have done thus far (keep in mind, even if a team had the five-day break, they could practice after 4 p.m. local time on the fifth day):

TEAM DAYS OFF RESULT
Arizona Coyotes 5 W
Calgary Flames 5 L
Carolina Hurricanes 5 OTL
Colorado Avalanche 5 L
Edmonton Oilers 5 L
Florida Panthers 5 L
Los Angeles Kings 6 L
New Jersey Devils 5 L
New York Islanders 5 OTL
New York Rangers 5 L
Ottawa Senators 5 L
Philadelphia Flyers 5 L
Pittsburgh Penguins 7 W
Toronto Maple Leafs 5 W

The Blackhawks made three changes to the lineup out of last Saturday’s game, including Crawford getting back in net. Kempny is back in (Gustav Forsling remains in Rockford) and Andrew Desjardins draws back into the lineup (Vinnie Hinostroza also stayed in Rockford).

Regardless of lineup, the Blackhawks want to come out strong and stay that way.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“Concerns are when we’re playing a team in that situation, where it’s like the start of the season, coming off breaks, we’re always emphasizing shooting the puck, getting traffic at the net. Being ready to play with the mental and simple approach is what we’re trying to do and making sure that there’s a purpose behind how we’re ready to start,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Especially against a quick team like this, we want to make sure we’re going to be aware of their rush game and their transition game. That’s why we want to be simple and ready.”

Broadcast information

Time: 6 p.m.

TV: WGN, NHL Network

Radio: WGN 720 AM

Blackhawks forward lines

Nick Schmaltz -Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik

Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa

Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Andrew Desjardins

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson

Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook

Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries

None

Oilers forward lines (via team website)

Patrick Maroon-Connor McDavid-Jordan Eberle

Milan Lucic-Leon Draisaitl-Anton Slepyshev

Drake Caggiula-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Zack Kassian

Matt Hendricks-Mark Letestu-Iiro Pakarinen

Defensive pairs

Andrej Sekera-Matt Benning

Oscar Klefbom-Adam Larsson

Brandon Davidson-Eric Gryba

Goaltender

Cam Talbot

Injuries 

Jujhar Khaira (wrist), Darnell Nurse (ankle), Tyler Pitlick (knee), Kris Russel (undisclosed)

Golden Knights All-Star Max Pacioretty expected to return for Game 1 vs. Blackhawks

Golden Knights All-Star Max Pacioretty expected to return for Game 1 vs. Blackhawks

The Vegas Golden Knights are expected to get a major boost going into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

After suffering a minor injury during Phase 3 of formal training camps that forced him to miss all three round-robin games, Max Pacioretty is "in the bubble" of Edmonton and should be ready to go for Game 1 of the first round against the Blackhawks. He completed his mandatory quarantine and will practice with the team on Monday, head coach Pete DeBoer said.

A six-time 30-goal scorer, Pacioretty led the Golden Knights in the regular season with 32 goals and 66 points. He participated in the NHL All-Star Game in January for the first time in his career and was the lone representative for Vegas.

Expect Pacioretty to play on the first line with Mark Stone. When the two of them were on the ice together at even strength this season, the Golden Knights controlled 60.6 percent of the shot attempts, 64.8 percent of the scoring chances and had a goal differential of plus-18, according to Natural Stat Trick.

The Golden Knights were already a deep team. And they just got even more dangerous with the return of Pacioretty.

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Why Blackhawks are in for 'big test' against Vegas in Stanley Cup Playoffs

Why Blackhawks are in for 'big test' against Vegas in Stanley Cup Playoffs

The Blackhawks had their work cut out for them in the qualifying round against the Edmonton Oilers. It was all about containing the two best players in the world in Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, both of whom weren’t as much of a factor at even strength as we’re used to seeing in a competitive series that lasted four games.

But the Blackhawks are about to face a different beast in the Vegas Golden Knights, who locked up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The two teams will square off in a best-of-seven series in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Blackhawks watched the Golden Knights’ round-robin finale on Saturday from their suite at Rogers Place, getting an up-close look at their next opponent. And they know they're in for a challenge.

"They're a good team," Kirby Dach said. "They're deep up front, they have good defense, obviously great goaltending. They play the game fast, they're smart, they're a disciplined team. We just know we're going to have to keep elevating our game to compete and hopefully win the series, but we have a long way to go. It's going to be a battle. We've got to be ready each and every night because we know they're going to bring it."

The Golden Knights went 3-0 in round-robin play, beating the No. 1 offensive team (Colorado) and No. 1 defensive team (Dallas) in the West, and defending Stanley Cup champions (St. Louis) by a combined score of 15-10. And they didn't even look their best.

But when they are at their best, the Golden Knights are seemingly unbeatable.

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The Golden Knights ranked No. 1 this season in even-strength shot attempts from the slot for (25.4 per game) and even-strength shots on net from the slot (15.1), according to Sportlogiq. They also ranked No. 1 in even-strength shot attempts from the slot against (18.8).

The Golden Knights are just as good of an offensive team than they are defensively at even strength and can come at you in waves.

"They seem to use all four lines a little more than Edmonton did," Connor Murphy said. "Edmonton had their top two or three forwards that carried a lot of the offense and played a lot of minutes and seemed to have a lot of possession in their hands. It'll be definitely different defending against that team game and that simple pressure and speed that they have. They play that playoff-style game as well. That'll be something that we look at these next couple days, and either adjust or roll with."

To cap it off, the Golden Knights have arguably the best goaltending duo in the playoffs with Marc-Andre Fleury and former Chicago netminder Robin Lehner. It remains unclear who will start Game 1, but there might not be a wrong choice.

Put it all together and you have a Golden Knights team that doesn't have many holes on their roster.

"They’re an excellent team," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Very good defensively, stingy defensively, but they’ve created a lot going the other way, too. We know we’re going to have to raise our level. It’s going to be a big challenge, but we’re excited about it."