The Chicago Blackhawks weathered their first game without Duncan Keith to get a win, but the challenge will be a bit different this time around. The Hawks host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night in the first contest between the two teams since they met in the Stanley Cup Final last season.
The defense held up in the Hawks' first game without their star defenseman, taking advantage of a bevy of power plays to earn a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers. Brent Seabrook, the new de facto No. 1 blue liner, had a big game with one goal and two assists, while Trevor van Riemsdyk emerged as someone who should see an expanded role over the next several weeks.
On the offensive side of things, the second line continues to shoulder the load. Patrick Kane is tied for third in the NHL in points with 10, Artemi Panarin is tied for the rookie points lead with eight and Artem Anisimov has had several impressive goals. Given the quiet performances from Jonathan Toews and the lack of production from the bottom two lines, it's been huge to have Panarin-Anisimov-Kane consistently putting the puck in the net.
Beating the Lightning won't be nearly as easy as the Panthers, though. Tampa Bay, the defending East champ, currently has a 5-2-1 record and the sixth-best goals per game figure in the NHL. Like with the Hawks, the Lightning's possession numbers haven't been stellar through the early part of the season, but both teams still look to be among the best in the league.
One thing to consider with Tampa Bay is the situation in goal. Ben Bishop has started every single game for the Bolts so far while usual backup Andrei Vasilevskiy has been sidelined after offseason surgery to remove a blood clot. He's expected back soon, but in the meantime Kevin Poulin has been the backup and Kristers Gudlevskis was recently recalled. It's unclear who will start Saturday night but it doesn't seem like the Lightning have much confidence in their goalies beyond Bishop with Vasilevskiy out. Bishop played last night in the team's 4-3 win over Winnipeg, so he could start showing some signs of fatigue at some point.
The Blackhawks will once again have Corey Crawford in goal for the game.
How to watch
When: 7:30 p.m. CT
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: WGN, NHL Network (U.S.)