The Chicago Blackhawks wrap up their preseason with a road matchup against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night. It’s safe to say that we’re ready to move on to the real games at this point, especially given how many big names are sitting out this one to get ready for the regular season opener.
The Hawks called up three defensemen from Rockford for Saturday’s contest, which won’t see Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson or Brian Campbell suiting up. There’s not much need for the coaching staff to see those four play in another meaningless matchup, so they’re understandably sitting out against St. Louis. Well, except for Hjammer, who was going to miss the game anyway due to his suspension from NHL Player Safety.
As you can see, Chicago isn’t rolling out the “A” team for this one:
There are still some key veterans (Artem Anisimov, Marcus Kruger) and top rookies (Nick Schmaltz, Tyler Motte, Gustav Forsling), but the biggest name taking the ice is probably goaltender Corey Crawford, who is slated to start.
The Blues, meanwhile, will be rolling out a pretty normal lineup with Vladimir Tarasenko, Paul Stastny, Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko and Kevin Shattenkirk among those listed on Saturday’s roster. Jake Allen is set to start in goal.
Players to watch for: Nick Schmaltz and Gustav Forsling
The Blackhawks’ top two prospects appear to be on the brink of making the opening day roster, but there have been no guarantees yet. Instead, Tyler Motte seems like the rookie who has done the most to cement his spot on the roster during training camp and the preseason.
But Schmaltz and Forsling remain two very impressive talents, especially the Swedish defenseman who has potentially played his way into a roster spot. Whereas Motte and Schmaltz have competed for several roles in the lineup, Forsling has had to carve out a spot where one didn’t really exist.
Now Chicago is seriously considering carrying eight defensemen to open the season because Forsling has been that good. That’s part of why Saturday is so important: it’s the last chance for Forsling to show what he can do against real competition before the Hawks need to decide whether to keep him or send him back to Sweden for the year.
Schmaltz is also playing for a job, although his situation is a bit different. He’s fighting with a bunch of young forwards for playing time and could open the season in Rockford. Unlike with Forsling and his European Assignment Clause, there’s not quite the same urgency to figure out what to do with Schmaltz.
Still, this is a crucial final chance for both players to impress.
How to watch Blackhawks vs. Blues
Location: Scottrade Center, St. Louis
Time: 7 p.m. CT
TV: CSN Chicago, NHL Network