Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the lineup, and Marian Hossa and Artem Anisimov are also expected to play when the Blackhawks face the Nashville Predators on Friday night.
Hossa did not practice on Thursday, but coach Joel Quenneville said it was just a maintenance day. Anisimov started practice but left after a few minutes; Quenneville said it was just a “preventive” measure.
Corey Crawford will start vs. the Predators.
The Blackhawks tinkered with their lines on Thursday. Artemi Panarin moved to the top line with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik, while Tyler Motte moved up to the second line with Anisimov and Kane. Asked if those top two lines were altered due to Hossa’s absence or if they could be implemented in tomorrow’s game, Quenneville said, “we’re looking at it.”
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As for Hjalmarsson, he’s completed his three-game suspension for his preseason hit on St. Louis’ Ty Rattie. Quenneville would not say which defenseman would come out of the lineup for tomorrow’s game. Hjalmarsson, meanwhile, is ready to return.
“Very excited. It’s always a fun building to play in, too, in Nashville. It’s always loud and high-paced game,” he said. “So it’s going to be a tough challenge right away, but I’m excited and I’m looking forward to it.”
The Blackhawks could’ve used Hjalmarsson for every situation in their season-opening loss to St. Louis on Wednesday, including their penalty kill. Hjalmarsson did like what he saw from the Blackhawks’ young defensemen, Michal Kempny and Gustav Forsling.
“I thought both of them were very impressive. If you didn’t know it was their first game, you definitely wouldn’t have thought that it was their first game,” he said. “I think they played a really solid, solid game and as a lot of guys have said before this season, I think on the back end, we’re as deep as we have ever been. So it’s always good with competition. It keeps pushing everybody to be on their toes and be at their best to stay in the lineup. Hopefully that will be a healthy competition throughout the whole year.”