Aside from the frustration that is the league’s worst penalty kill (we’ll get to that in a bit), the Chicago Blackhawks have started games slow this season. Through seven games, the Hawks have been outshot in the first period six times.
With some new faces joining the team this season, a lack of cohesion in each line has been an issue, as the team has averaged more penalty minutes per game this season (9.14 PIM/G) than last season (7.45 PIM/G). A combination of the lack of offense and increased penalty minutes has caused a shakeup in coach Joel Quenneville’s starting lineup ... and it’s an exciting one.
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will skate together on the top line along with one of the league’s leading scorers, Richard Panik. The addition of Kane to the top line should help Toews jump-start his goal production, as the captain has not yet scored this season. Taking Kane’s spot in the second line is Marian Hossa, who joins Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov as they try to keep the top two lines red hot offensively. The third line draws a lot of interest as well, with Marcus Kruger centering a pair of rookies in Tyler Motte and Ryan Hartman.
According to Coach Q, the reason for the switch in lines was simple: “We want balance. It’s what we’re looking for.”
The opponent on Friday is the New Jersey Devils (3-2-1), who come into the game with the second-worst scoring offense in the NHL. The Devils only have six even strength goals through six games. They look to Taylor Hall, who is coming off a two-goal game against Arizona on Tuesday. His addition to the New Jersey offense has spurred a 24 percent increase in shots on net from last season to this season (24.4 SF/G last year, 30.3 SF/G this year).
There’s also something to be said for the play of goaltender Cory Schneider, who has helped establish the second best goals against average in the league (2.00 GAA). His play between the pipes has been a major reason why the Devils are sitting third in the Metropolitan Division.
However, the netminder for the Devils will be backup Keith Kinkaid, who will start his first game of the season for New Jersey. Another fun addition to the Devils’ lineup is Geneva, Ill., native Nick Lappin, who was called up from Albany late Thursday night. Lappin grew up a Blackhawks fan, and is also an avid supporter of the Chicago Cubs. It’s safe to say this Friday will be quite the homecoming for him, although he’ll miss the Cubs’ first World Series game at Wrigley Field since 1945.
For more on the New Jersey Devils, check out All About the Jersey.
Richard Panik – Jonathan Toews – Patrick Kane,
Artemi Panarin – Artem Anisimov – Marian Hossa
Tyler Motte – Nick Schmaltz – Ryan Hartman
Dennis Rasmussen – Marcus Kruger – Jordin Tootoo
Duncan Keith – Brian Campbell
Michal Kempny – Brent Seabrook
Niklas Hjalmarsson – Michal Rozsival
Scratches: Gustav Forsling, Andrew Desjardins, Trevor van Riemsdyk
Taylor Hall – Pavel Zacha – Kyle Palmieri
Michael Cammalleri – Travis Zajac – P.A. Parenteau
Beau Bennett – Adam Henrique – Devante Smith-Pelly
Sergey Kalinin – Vernon Fiddler – Nick Lappin
John Moore – Ben Lovejoy
Damon Severson – Andy Greene
Kyle Quincey – Yohann Auvitu
Scratches: Reid Boucher, Jacob Josefson
How to watch Blackhawks at Devils
Place: Prudential Center, Newark
Time: 6:30 p.m. CT