No Duncan Keith, no problem, right?? Right????? I suppose we'll start to find out the answer to that question Thursday night as the Chicago Blackhawks take on the Florida Panthers. It's the first game Keith will miss after undergoing successful knee surgery earlier in the week.
That means the Hawks are rolling out some new defensive pairings Thursday, although they're sticking with the six guys who were already on the roster before. The groupings during practice on Wednesday were Brent Seabrook-Viktor Svedberg, Trevor Daley-David Rundblad and Niklas Hjalmarsson-Trevor van Riemsdyk. If you were thinking, "Does that blue line kinda suck or is it just me," nope, you're not alone. This ain't great.
Luckily I can at least squint and picture a world where this isn't a total disaster, so let's just run with that for now until the first Rundblad turnover has us lighting the Pokka Signal. Unfortunately it sounds like Ville hasn't finished his training with
Ra's al Ghul Ted Dent quite yet.
On the forward side of things, it looks like Bryan Bickell is getting the boot from the lineup for the time being. Someone has to be the odd man out with Vincent Hinostroza trying to settle in as the third-line center, and based on Wednesday's lines, that'll be The $4 Million Man.
#Blackhawks lines: Tikhonov-Toews-Hossa Panarin-Anisimov-Kane Teravainen-Hinostroza-Garbutt Desjardins-Kruger-Shaw— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) October 21, 2015
The Panthers enter the game with a 3-2-1 record and losses in their past two games. Their offense, led by Jaromir Jagr, Aleksander Barkov and old friend Brandon Pirri, is tied for ninth in goals per game. The duo of Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya is No. 2 in the league in save percentage.
Unfortunately for Florida -- and possibly good news for Chicago -- is that the team seems due for some regression. The Panthers are a middling possession team and have the league's fifth-highest PDO (104.1) thus far. Once those shooting percentages regress to more sustainable levels, Florida will need to do a better job of driving possession or risk falling back in the standings yet again.
I also answered some questions for Litter Box Cats, SBN's Panthers blog, over on their site if you want to check that out.
How to watch
When: 7:30 p.m. CT
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: CSN Chicago