Leaving a three-game series with the Predators only two points in tow, the Blackhawks have fallen to sixth place in the NHL Central Division. They’re three points behind the Stars, who have a game in hand. They’re five points behind Nashville, although Chicago has a game in hand. Either way, the Blackhawks have eight games to make up ground. Or to start giving the kids more ice time and develop talent with the playoffs escaping — it was not the intention at the beginning of the season anyway.
A real test comes on Tuesday, as the Blackhawks face the team that dragged them up and down the ice at the beginning of the season in the Lightning. Even a moral victory on Tuesday could be worth something if players like Adam Boqvist and Philipp Kurashev see more time.
Chicago is 1-5-1 against the Lightning this season, their lone win on March 5 in a 4-3 shootout. The Blackhawks are led in scoring against Tampa Bay by Alex DeBrincat, who has five goals and two assists in seven games. Patrick Kane has a goal and four assists while both Dominik Kubalik and Adam Boqvist each have four points against the Lightning this season. Fourteen Blackhawks have at least one point against the Lightning this season.
Tampa is led by Alex Killorn (five goals) and Victor Hedman, each with 11 points against Chicago this season. Steven Stamkos has 10 points, including four goals. Yanni Gourde has five goals and nine points. Three more Lightning players have six or more points and 17 have scored at least one point.
Tampa Bay has run rampant against the Blackhawks this season in terms of possession. Chicago has a 42.72 expected goals percentage against the Lightning this season (second-worst in the division) and 45.54 shots for percentage (third-worst).
The Blackhawks goaltending situation is in an odd place. Malcolm Subban started two of the three games against the Predators but had a .900 save percentage in one game and a .893 in the other. Kevin Lankinen’s lone performance resulted in a .773 before he was pulled in favor of Subban. Lankinen has a .874 SV% against the Lightning this season in three games, while Subban has a .885 in the same number of contests. The Blackhawks could conceivably ride with the current starter and keep Subban in net.
The Blackhawks played the Predators tight in their last game on Friday. Without Calvin de Haan — out with a hip injury, which kept him out of practice Monday — the Blackhawks rolled seven defensemen on Friday, including Nicolas Beaudin and Riley Stillman. With Stillman signed to a three-year extension and de Haan likely still out, the Blackhawks could return to an 11-7 lineup.
The Blackhawks saw no miracles on Friday. If Chicago is to have any hopes of the playoffs remaining, they’ll need to beat the Lightning Tuesday — which again, they’ve only done once this season.
Blackhawks — Statistic — Lightning
47.16% (26th) — 5-on-5 Corsi for — 52.28% (8th)
45.42% (30th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 52.54 (10th)
2.77 (17th) — Goals per game — 3.31 (6th)
3.10 (22nd) — Goals against per game — 2.58 (7th)
46.7% (28th) — Faceoffs — 50.1% (16th)
22.8% (9th) — Power play — 24.7% (5th)
76.5% (27th) — Penalty kill — 82.4% (9th)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
Hinostroza — Suter — Kane
DeBrincat — Dach — Hagel
Kubalik — Kurashev — TBD
Connolly — Kampf — Carpenter
Kalynuk — Murphy
Keith — Boqvist
Stillman — Zadorov
Palat — Point — Barreboulet
Killorn — Cirelli — Johnson
Goodrow — Gourde — Coleman
Maroon — Colton — Joseph
Heman — Cernak
McDonagh — Savard
Sergachev — Schenn
How to watch
When: 7 p.m. CT
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBC Sports Chicago, ESPN+
Live stream: NBC Sports app