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Chris Kunitz to return to lineup for Blackhawks vs. Panthers

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The veteran winger was a healthy scratch for six straight games.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Blackhawks winger Chris Kunitz will play Sunday against the Panthers at the United Center after being a healthy scratch for six consecutive games.

Kunitz, 39, hasn’t played since Dec. 11 when he had one shot and skated 7:22 minutes across 11 shifts in Chicago’s 6-3 loss at Winnipeg. He has no goals, two assists and 54.8 Corsi percentage in 22 games during his first season with the Blackhawks.

Sunday’s contest will be Kunitz’s 989th career NHL game.

Kunitz will play at left wing on the fourth line with Brendan Perlini and center Jacob Nilsson, who will make his NHL debut. Chicago called up Nilsson from the AHL after he scored four goals with two assists in his last eight games. The 5-foot-11, 181-pounder has 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 31 AHL games in his first North American season.

The Blackhawks signed Nilsson to a one-year contract in May after he had 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) for Mora IK in Sweden last season. The 25-year-old played two seasons under Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton with Mora IK.

Defenseman Brandon Manning will be a healthy scratch Sunday for the sixth straight game. Manning has one goal and two assists while mainly playing in a third pairing role in 27 games.

Here’s how the Blackhawks’ lineup looks for Sunday:

Saad — Toews — Kahun

Strome — Anisimov — Kane

DeBrincat — Kampf — Sikura

Kunitz — Nilsson — Perlini

Keith — Gustafsson

Forsling — Seabrook

Dahlstrom — Murphy

[GAME PREVIEW]