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Preview: Blackhawks look to avoid a second Lightning strike in Tampa rematch

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It can’t be any worse than Wednesday’s opener, right?

NHL: JAN 13 Blackhawks at Lightning Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After a mostly disastrous season opener, the Blackhawks return to the ice for their second game of the season facing the same opponent as in the first: the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning.

Wednesday’s game felt largely decided by the first intermission, with Tampa netting three goals in the first period en route to a 5-1 victory.

Not that Tampa needed any additional boosts after Game 1’s result but its offense could have a little more firepower thanks to the addition of Tyler Johnson to the second line. Johnson, who missed Wednesday’s games while going through the waiver process, has seen his numbers fall since his 72-point season way back in ‘14-15 (remember how that ended? Good times), as he produced just 31 points (14 G, 17 A) last season. But there’s plenty left in Johnson’s tank and he’s reportedly hopping on the second line with Alex Killorn and Anthony Cirelli, providing another significant scoring threat behind the top line of Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos.

As for the Blackhawks, COVID protocols this season apparently mean that deciphering lineup changes from practices between gamedays isn’t going to happen. Therefore, any forecast movement will be based on speculation, and the speculation here is that the lineup that took the ice on Wednesday will go through some level of adjustment. The most obvious would be in net, where it feels like Collin Delia will get his turn to start after Malcom Subban’s rough start (which wasn’t entirely his fault) to the 2021 season.

Perhaps Philipp Kurashev steps into the lineup to replace Brandon Pirri? Maybe Nicolas Beaudin or Wyatt Kalynuk get a chance to skate on the blue line? Either way, it’s hard to imagine that the lineup remains the same after Wednesday’s debacle.

The bar of expectations that was already set exceptionally low was somehow dropped a few more notches for the Blackhawks after Wednesday night’s deflating performance. The Blackhawks just have to be better than they were on Wednesday. There’s not much more to say than that. Be better so there’s reason to keep watching this team in Games 3-56.

Let’s go Hawks.

Tale of the tape (statistics from last season)

Blackhawks — Statistic — Lightning

48.45% (22nd) — Corsi For — 52.25% (5th)

46.93% (27th) — Expected goals for — 53.73% (3rd)

2.97 (18th) — Goals per game — 3.47 (1st)

3.06 (16th) — Goals against per game — 2.77 (8th)

49.9% (17th) — Faceoffs — 50.5% (11th)

15.2% (28th) — Power play — 23.1% (5th)

82.1% (9th) — Penalty kill — 81.4% (14th)

Projected lineups

Blackhawks

DeBrincat — Strome — Kane

Kubalik — Suter — Pirri

Janmark — Wallmark — Shaw

Highmore — Kampf — Carpenter

Keith — Murphy

de Haan — Mitchell

Zadorov — Boqvist

Delia

Subban

Lightning

Palat — Point — Stamkos

Killorn — Cirelli — Johnson

Goodrow — Gourde — Coleman

Maroon — Stephens — Joseph

Hedman — Rutta

McDonagh — Cernak

Sergachev — Foote

Vasilevskiy

McElhinney

How to watch

When: 6 p.m.

Where: Amalie Arena; Tampa, Fla.

TV: NBC Sports Chicago, ESPN+

Live stream: NBC Sports app, NHL.TV