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Final Countdown: Blackhawks-Wild preseason preview

The competition for the final roster spots is coming down to the wire.

Minnesota Wild v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks are back at the United Center on Saturday night to face the Minnesota Wild for their final game of the preseason.

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:

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:

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.

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:

Blackhawks lineup

DeBrincat — T. Johnson — Kane

Kubalik — Toews — Kurashev

Hagel — Dach — Borgstrom

Hagel — Strome/Entwistle — Carpenter

Stillman — S. Jones

McCabe — Murphy

de Haan — Mitchell

Fleury

Lankinen

How to watch

When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

STREAM: ESPN+ (out of market only)