Blackhawks

Brian Campbell could be healthy scratch vs. Predators

Brian Campbell could be healthy scratch vs. Predators

NASHVILLE – Brian Campbell could be a healthy scratch, snapping a 423-game regular-season playing streak, when the Blackhawks face the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.

Coach Joel Quenneville said on Wednesday that he wanted to get Michal Kempny and Michal Rozsival back in the lineup; both have been healthy scratches for some time now. On Thursday morning he said one of those scratches could be Campbell. The 37-year-old defenseman hasn’t missed a regular-season game since March of 2011, when he was coming off a foot injury.

Campbell got off to a slow start this season, as he moved to the right side when he was paired with Gustav Forsling. He was almost a healthy scratch in October but ultimately kept his regular-season playing streak intact. At that time, Campbell talked about readjusting to the right.

“I know it should be natural and it comes and I’m obviously getting used to that so it’s just different things. You’re not as open to the ice, but you have to find a way,” Campbell said then. “I felt good last game. Felt like even last game might’ve been one of my better games, but I just have to keep working hard. That’s all I’ve ever done in my career.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Quenneville said several factors could play into Campbell’s scratch.

“He started all right, then he played very well. The stretch recently wasn’t as good,” Quenneville said. “With eight guys, bounce around, back-to-back games and a big stretch where those guys [Kempny and Rozsival] have been out is all part of it as well.”

As much as it would be disappointing for Campbell to end his streak it may not be a bad idea for the long haul. If the Blackhawks go on any kind of a postseason run, they’re not going to want their veterans worn down.

“With eight defensemen, we always have tough decisions and we have to sit out two at a time. The guys who were out were probably out a little too long,” Quenneville said. “[Campbell] is part of a group that, 82 games, with might not be able to play them all.”

The Predators will be without P.K. Subban, who will miss the team’s final two games of 2016 with an upper-body injury.

Broadcast information

Time: 7 p.m.

TV: CSN

Live Stream: CSNChicago.com

Blackhawks forward lines

Ryan Hartman-Jonathan Toews-Tyler Motte

Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Richard Panik

Vinnie Hinostroza-Tanner Kero-Jordin Tootoo

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson

Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook

Gustav Forsling-Michal Rozsival

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries

Marian Hossa (upper body)

Predators forward lines (via The Tennessean)

Filip Forsberg-Ryan Johansen-Viktor Arvidson

Colin Wilson-Mike Fisher-Austin Watson

Kevin Fiala-Mike Ribeiro-James Neal

Reid Boucher-Calle Jarnknok-Craig Smith

Defensive pairs

Roman Josi-Ryan Ellis

Mattias Ekholm-Matt Irwin

Yannick Weber-Petter Granberg

Goaltender

Pekka Rinne

Injuries

P.K. Subban (upper body), Anthony Bitetto (broken hand), Miikka Salomaki (upper body)

What Ian Mitchell returning to college means for Blackhawks

What Ian Mitchell returning to college means for Blackhawks

After falling short of a Frozen Four championship with Denver, the attention in Chicago turned to defenseman prospect Ian Mitchell and whether he'd sign an entry-level deal with the Blackhawks. It felt like it was only a matter of time before he would do so, but as the days passed, there seemed to be growing speculation that that may not be the case.

On Wednesday, Mitchell made it official and announced his decision to return to college for his junior season by releasing this statement on Denver's website:

"In the past few days since our season ended, I have had the chance to reflect on the year and the season our team had. It became clear to me during that time that I did not feel ready mentally or physically to leave Denver. I believe this is the best place for me to become a better hockey player and as a team we have an opportunity to do something very special next year. I would like to thank the Chicago Blackhawks organization for being so supportive and respectful of my decision to remain in school and continue my development. I am looking forward to next season."

So what does this mean for the Blackhawks?

For one, it immediately eliminates Mitchell from the equation of making the 2019-20 Opening Day roster even though he might be the most pro-ready of the three top Blackhawks defensemen prospects that haven't appeared in an NHL game yet (Nicolas Beaudin and Adam Boqvist). It's probably a wise move for his long-term development.

But with Beaudin and Boqvist also in the same boat as far as maybe needing some more time to develop, it's entirely possible all three won't be in the NHL next season. Which is fine. The Blackhawks have always preached patience when it comes to prospects developing at their own pace.

But it puts the Blackhawks in a position the following season where they could be breaking in several young defensemen at once depending on where they're at in their timelines. Maybe that's a good problem to have. It also depends on the number of roster spots available, which is a conversation for a different day.

In going back to college, Mitchell, a second-round pick (No. 57 overall) in 2017, pushes back his eligibility to sign with the Blackhawks to the spring of 2020. And yes, it's too early to start wondering whether the Blackhawks could lose his signing rights if he returns to college for a senior season and elects to go to free agency. 

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Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Goaltenders

Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Goaltenders

At the Blackhawks' exit interviews, GM Stan Bowman and coach Jeremy Colliton basically addressed everything. What went wrong? What needs to improve? Which areas did they take strides in?

The one thing they didn't assess: Goaltending. And it's because they didn't need to.

Among the 70 goaltenders that appeared in at least 10 games this season, Cam Ward (32.1 feet), Collin Delia (33.2) and Corey Crawford (34.1) ranked No. 1, 2 and 4 in closest average shot distance faced at 5-on-5, according to naturalstattrick.com. And yet the three of them helped the Blackhawks rank fifth in 5-on-5 high-danger save percentage (.856) and 18th in overall 5-on-5 save percentage (.919). 

No complaints there.

Where the numbers got skewed is on the penalty kill, where the Blackhawks were 26th in save percentage (.843). But again, how much of that is the fault of the goaltenders vs. the actual system and personnel?

So while the numbers on the surface might not look great in a vacuum — Crawford: 2.93 GAA and .908 save percentage; Delia: 3.61 GAA and .908 save percentage; Ward: 3.67 GAA and .897 save percentage — the Blackhawks couldn't have really asked for much more from their trio of netminders.

The most encouraging news? Crawford bounced back from his first and second concussion in a big way and looked like his old self down the stretch. In his final 13 starts he went 6-3-3 with a 1.97 GAA, .933 save percentage and one shutout. 

"It was great to see him rebound the way he did, especially at the start of the year," Bowman said. "And then having an injury, missed some time and then he came back, he's a pretty unique guy to be able to miss time like that and it's like he never missed a beat. He's the sharpest he's ever been. So that's reassuring knowing he has a lot of game left." 

Grade: B

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