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Mercy Me: Blackhawks-Senators preview

Patrick Kane could be back from COVID protocol as the winless Hawks search for victory No. 1 this season.

Chicago Blackhawks v Ottawa Senators Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks search for win No. 1 in the 2021-22 season continues on Monday night at the United Center with the Ottawa Senators as the opponent.

Ottawa enters this game in a better position than the Hawks — which is a painfully low bar to clear these days — but still toiling near the bottom of the Eastern Division with a 3-4 record. The early breakout player is youngster Drake Batherson, a 2017 fourth-round pick (121st overall) who has eight points (4 G, 4 A) in seven games including a four-point night against the Capitals last week. Joshua Norris (5 G, 1 A) and Connor Brown (1 G, 4 A) are also among the statistical leaders while Brady Tkachuk has a goal and two assists in four games since his late arrival following the resolution of contract disputes.

On defense, Thomas Chabot is average over 27 minutes per game as the team’s clear No. 1 option on the blue line, while one of the league’s better names — Artem Zub — is close behind at 23:45. That duo forms the Senators’ top pairing and should be on the ice for a good chunk of this evening’s proceedings. In net, Matt Murray is on injured reserve and old friend Anton Forsberg hasn’t fared well in his four games (1-2 record, .480 goals against average, .885 save percentage) so expect Filip Gustavsson to be in the Ottawa net. Gustavsson is 2-1 on the young season with a 2.23 GAA and .932 SV%.

As for Chicago, the big news from the morning skate was the return of Patrick Kane from COVID protocol along with a pair of assistant coaches. However, coach Jeremy Colliton dampened expectations of Kane returning to the lineup for Monday night:

It’s hard to imagine that Kane doesn’t play, but that’s something which will only be known when Chicago hits the ice for warmups. One thing that is known: Marc-Andre Fleury will be the starting goalie.

The only other notable item from the morning skate on Monday was an apparent lengthy conversation between Colliton and Dylan Strome, who’s long-term status with the organization is uncertain at best.

Based on prior experiences from the season, Strome is probably the No. 1 candidate to be scratched should Kane return to the lineup, which would render the lines below mostly meaningless. But that conversation can happen closer to gametime. Right now, the hope is the Hawks can find some way to put this miserable start to bed with their first win of the season.

Blackhawks — Statistic — Senators (numbers from last season)

45.85% (30th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 48.57% (19th)

43.96% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 47.86% (22nd)

2.84 (16th) — Goals per game — 2.77 (19th)

3.29 (24th) — Goals against per game — 3.38 (28th)

46.9% (27th) — Faceoffs — 47.4% (26th)

21.7% (11th) — Power play — 15.5% (26th)

76.8% (28th) — Penalty kill — 79.0% (20th)

Projected lineups (subject to change)

Blackhawks

Kubalik — Dach — Kurashev

DeBrincat — Strome — Hardman

Hagel — Toews — Carpenter

Gaudette — Entwistle — Johnson

de Haan — Jones

Gustafsson — Murphy

McCabe — Phillips

Fleury

Lankinen

Senators

Tkachuk — Norris — Batherson

Stutzle — Paul — Brown

Formenton — Tierney — Ennis

Sanford — Gambrell — Shaw

Chabot — Zub

Holden — Zaitsev

Mete — Brown

Gustavsson

Forsberg

How to watch

When: 7 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network

Live stream: ESPN+