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Reese Johnson to make NHL debut in Blackhawks’ rematch with Blue Jackets

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All signs point to the game being played after Chicago canceled practice on Saturday.

Columbus Blue Jackets v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

In the second of a two-game set against the Blue Jackets, the Blackhawks will look for their first win after a 2-1 loss on Friday that snapped a five-game point streak and handed Chicago its first home loss (now 2-1-0 at home).

On Saturday, the Blackhawks canceled practice citing “an abundance of caution” and added two more players to the COVID-19 protocol list in Nicolas Beaudin and Ryan Carpenter. That makes it five players on the list for Chicago, which also includes Adam Boqvist, Alex DeBrincat and Lucas Wallmark.

It seems somewhat likely that the Blackhawks will switch back to 12 forwards and six defensemen with Beaudin out, as Beaudin had been the Blackhawks’ seventh defenseman. Carpenter was a permanent fixture on their fourth line, so he’ll be replaced by fellow fourth-liner Matthew Highmore, while Reese Johnson has been elevated from the taxi squad and will make his NHL debut.

While the last game between these two teams was a somewhat low-event contest — there were just six shots at 5-on-5 between both teams in the first period and seven altogether — the Blackhawks did not play poorly. They won the expected goals battle 2.19 to 1.31 at 5-on-5. The power play also continued rolling along, converting on one of its three chances for Chicago’s only goal of the game.

The Blue Jackets will roll out the same lines as they did in Friday’s win but start Elvis Merzlikins in net after Joonas Korpisalo played on Friday. Patrik Laine, who they added in exchange for Pierre-Luc Dubois, likely won’t join the team until they return to Columbus. The Blue Jackets scored the lone five-on-five goal in the prior meeting between these two teams and should have a well-rested roster following Saturday’s off day after three games in four nights.

The Blackhawks continue to struggle at full strength and have a goal differential of minus-7 through the first nine games. They’ve also allowed the sixth-most goals against at 5-on-5 play with 18. That’s despite some superior goaltending from Kevin Lankinen, who had his fourth-straight game with save percentage over .920. Lankinen will get his third consecutive start on Sunday.

The Blackhawks finally appear to be playing better defense — they allowed just eight high-danger chances against at 5on-5 on Friday — but it remains to be seen how they adjust. Beaudin was one of their seven defensemen in that effort and Carpenter is one of their better defensive forwards. That adjustment will be one of the most important factors in this game.

Let’s go Hawks.

Tale of the tape (statistics from last season)

Blackhawks — Statistic — Blue Jackets

48.45% (22nd) — Corsi For — 49.11% (20th)

46.93% (27th) — Expected goals for — 51.92 (9th)

2.97 (18th) — Goals per game — 2.57 (27th)

3.06 (16th) — Goals against per game — 2.61 (3rd)

49.9% (17th) — Faceoffs — 48.5% (26th)

15.2% (28th) — Power play — 16.4% (27th)

82.1% (9th) — Penalty kill — 81.7% (12th)

Projected lineups (subject to change)

Blackhawks

Janmark — Suter — Kane

Kubalik — Strome — Kurashev

Hagel — Söderberg — Shaw

Highmore — Kampf — Johnson

Keith — Carlsson

Zadorov — Murphy

de Haan — Mitchell

Lankinen/Subban

Blue Jackets

Foligno — Texier — Bjorkstrand

Grigorenko — Domi — Foudy

Jenner — Roslovic — Atkinson

Robinson — Koivu — Nash

Werenski — Jones

Gavrikov — Savard

Del Zotto — Kukan

Merzlikins

Korpisalo

How to watch

When: 6 p.m.

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Live stream: NBC Sports app, NHL.TV