Blackhawks

Blackhawks' Richard Panik gets third-line chance vs. Flames

3-26-richard-panik.png

Blackhawks' Richard Panik gets third-line chance vs. Flames

CALGARY, Alberta – Richard Panik moves up a line and Scott Darling gets the start when the Blackhawks face the Calgary Flames tonight at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Panik, who has two goals in as many games, was bumped up to the third line with Teuvo Teravainen and Tomas Fleischmann. Panik was a healthy scratch for several games but has played well since being put back in it. He and Andrew Shaw were the Blackhawks’ lone scorers against the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars.

[MORE: Marcus Kruger set to return when Blackhawks face Flames]

The forward, who the Blackhawks acquired in exchange for Jeremy Morin earlier this season, said he kept his confidence up even when he was a scratch.

“There are a lot of great guys and obviously everyone who isn’t playing isn’t happy about it. But that’s how things work. If you don’t play you can’t just say you’re not going to work hard,” Panik said. “You have to keep your focus, and that’s what I tried to do when I didn’t play because when you jump into the lineup you can’t just switch it on. You have to be ready for it, and I think I did a good job with Paul and I feel good on the ice now because of that.”

“Yeah, he’s certainly earned the opportunity to stay in the lineup based on how he’s played,” Coach Joel Quenneville said of Panik. “We don’t mind having options. Five lines right now and two extra defensemen… some nights, some guys won’t be happy. But we like the internal competition.”

[SHOP: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

Dale Weise looks to be a healthy scratch tonight, as does Dennis Rasmussen and Brandon Mashinter among the forwards. On defense, it looks like Viktor Svedberg is in and Christian Ehrhoff and Erik Gustafsson are potential healthy scratches.

Meanwhile, Corey Crawford (upper body) still isn’t skating but Quenneville said he’s “close.” Quenneville did not want to get into specifics on what Crawford’s injury is but said he believes Crawford will be all right for the postseason.

“We think he’s going to be ready; he’s close but we still don’t see him on the ice,” Quenneville said. “I can’t answer that certainly, but we expect him to be ready.”

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Anton Forsberg cleared waivers on Tuesday morning and was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League.

That's good news for the Blackhawks organizational depth chart, with Forsberg as the No. 3 in goal. But it also complicates things in Rockford, where Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen have been sharing the duties.

Delia is 3-1-0 with a 3.26 goals against average and .910 save percentage while Lankinen is 0-1-1 with a 3.39 GAA and .825 save percentage. Perhaps the most likely scenario is Lankinen gets sent to the ECHL with the Indy Fuel while Delia and Forsberg split the load in Rockford.

It's certainly a good problem to have, but it's still unclear how that dynamic will play out.

"We haven’t talked about that," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But we expect [Forsberg] to play."

Luke Johnson recalled

With a spot opening up on the 23-man roster, Johnson is being brought back up after he was squeezed out by Corey Crawford's return. He had a goal and an assist in two games with Rockford.

Brandon Saad returns to top-six role

After turning in arguably his best performance of the season on Sunday, Saad is back playing on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane. He had seven shot attempts (three on goal) against Tampa Bay and led the team in 5-on-5 possession numbers.

"[Saad] is coming off a game where we liked what we saw," Quenneville said. "Playing with Kaner can help him get going."

Nick Schmaltz to play right side for first time in NHL career

Eight games into the season and Schmaltz has spent time at both center and left wing. Now he'll get a look on the right side with Alexandre Fortin on the left and David Kampf centering the third line.

Part of the reason for Schmaltz’s move to the right side was because Quenneville said they like Fortin on the left. It's not unfamiliar territory for Schmaltz, but could take some time getting used to.

"I played a little while back, not sure when," Schmaltz said "Just a little bit different. Catching pucks on your forehand now instead of your backhand. It's not a huge adjustment, just play with speed and compete hard and hopefully the skill on our line will take over."

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

9-20_anton_forsberg_ap.jpg
AP

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

The Blackhawks have said all along that they don't plan on carrying three goaltenders, but wanted to do so during the three games in four days stretch just in case, with Corey Crawford coming back from a 10-month layoff because of a concussion.

After being encouraged by how Crawford has responded to his return, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers Monday morning. Teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the 25-year-old goaltender and would have to keep him on their NHL roster for 10 games and/or 30 days before he's eligible to go through the waiver process again.

His chances of getting claimed by any of the other 30 teams essentially depends on which teams believe Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade over their current backup — or starter, for that matter — or whether there's an injury to one of the team's two goaltenders that requires a placeholder, like we saw the Carolina Hurricanes do by claiming Curtis McElhinney from the Toronto Maple Leafs after Scott Darling's injury in the preseason.

If Forsberg goes unclaimed, the Blackhawks can assign him to the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs. With Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen sharing the goaltending duties in Rockford, it's possible Lankinen gets sent to the Indy Fuel in the ECHL to get consistent starts under his belt.

A third option, one that isn't very common but we've seen in the past as recently as last October with Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, is that Forsberg can be loaned to any AHL team while still being a part of the Blackhawks organization. This would allow the Blackhawks to keep Delia and Lankinen in Rockford while Forsberg gets his starts in the AHL, too.

Or, the Blackhawks could simply trade Forsberg to another NHL team that could stash him in the AHL, as long as he clears waivers. They did it last season with Chris DiDomenico, who cleared waivers as a member of the Ottawa Senators but was then traded to Chicago for Ville Pokka days later. Had DiDomenico been claimed by the Blackhawks, he would have had to stay on the NHL roster as noted above.

Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 35 appearances last season but has not appeared in a game yet this year. He was acquired as part of the Brandon Saad package for Artemi Panarin in June 2017.