The Blackhawks are rolling out what is close to its final lineup against the Wild. The only players of note missing are Alex Nylander — seemingly bound for waivers — and Adam Gaudette, who is still in contention for a final roster spot.
With injuries to Wyatt Kalynuk and Caleb Jones, Ian Mitchell is getting a chance in the top-six. Jakub Galvas is also still with the Blackhawks and has received rave reviews throughout camp by coach Jeremy Colliton, so it’s likely he and Mitchell will be rotating in that last spot until the other two heal.
Marc-Andre Fleury is also slated to play the entire game Saturday:
The Blackhawks did not practice line rushes Saturday morning, but the top two lines are almost assuredly going to be repeats from previous games: Alex DeBrincat, Tyler Johnson, and Patrick Kane will man the top line while Dominik Kubalik, Jonathan Toews, and Philipp Kurashev will ride shotgun.
As for the bottom-six, Colliton gave some insight about potential lines:
Colliton said he likes Borgstrom on the left wing of Dach and Hagel. On the fourth line, Colliton said Khaira and Carpenter can play center, but he’s open to putting a center on that line and having them as wings. That’s where Entwistle, Gaudette and Strome are competing for.— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) October 9, 2021
Colliton: "Borgstrom’s shown he’s a real good center — responsible, pretty solid on faceoffs and down low [in the] D-zone. He’s got a chance to produce for us. So [now we're] just trying to see if we can maybe play him UP the lineup. Can he play wing?" Said he'll play LW tonight.— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) October 9, 2021
Henrik Borgstrom being in the final top-nine spot (for now) leaves both Dylan Strome and Adam Gaudette in a less than ideal situation: vying to play on a defensively minded fourth line. Neither forward is adept defensively, and they would be with linemates who can’t match their offensive potential. MacKenzie Entwistle is also still in the competition and does fit in that role the best of the three, but he’s also the only one who’s exempt from the waivers process.
Colliton reiterated after practice that roster decisions would be based on the cumulation of the training camp progress, not on a single performance in the final preseason game:
Colliton on meaning of tonight's final preseason game:— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) October 9, 2021
"It’s easy to say: 'This is it, this is your last chance...If you’re great you’re in, if you’re bad you’re out.' That’s not how it is. It’s a body of work throughout camp... [Tonight] we want to see the group, how it works." https://t.co/u2mUugw5iP
Special teams continued to be a focus at practice, this time shifting to the power play, where the units look to be pretty finalized at this point. Mitchell is getting an opportunity on the second unit thanks to the injuries mentioned above.
In the most important news from post-practice interviews with the media, Toews stated he plans to play in Wednesday’s season opener against the Colorado Avalanche. Although Toews had been practicing with teammates since summer, he and the Blackhawks have never given a firm answer on whether he’d actually be ready to start the season, so this is the first confirmation of that fact.
Toews: "I'm pretty happy given what the last month has looked like, what I felt like going into training camp. I've taken a step almost every day. It's pretty exciting... I feel confident my game is there, my energy is there."— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) October 9, 2021
Jonathan Toews said he was "a little panicky" a week before training camp but feels confident now: "It's almost good to get thrown into the mix and just have to sink or swim. Sometimes you've got to burn the candle at both ends and find a way to respond and recover." #Blackhawks— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) October 9, 2021
Finally, the Wild are sending a roster predominantly filled with NHL players. However, they will be missing No. 1 defensemen Jonas Brodin — out for maintenance — and top prospect Matt Boldy — who fractured his left ankle in the Thursday preseason game against the Blackhawks and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
Also, Cam Talbot is listed above but he will be out for a personal matter and Kaapo Kahkonen will start instead:
DeBrincat — T. Johnson — Kane
Kubalik — Toews — Kurashev
Hagel — Dach — Borgstrom
Hagel — Strome/Entwistle — Carpenter
Stillman — S. Jones
McCabe — Murphy
de Haan — Mitchell
How to watch
When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
STREAM: ESPN+ (out of market only)