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Sink, Florida, Sink: Blackhawks-Panthers Preview

Chicago wraps up its season series against Florida on Saturday night at the United Center.

NHL: APR 29 Panthers at Blackhawks Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Watching regular season hockey games in May feels about as weird as playing postseason games in August. But that whole pandemic thing isn’t over yet, so here we are on the first day of the fifth month of the calendar with the Blackhawks at home again facing the Panthers at the United Center on Saturday night for the final matchup between these two teams in the 2021 season.

The short-term picture for each team is clear, with the Panthers already assured a playoff spot and the Blackhawks all but mathematically eliminated. Despite those differences, the teams still combined for some decent entertainment on Thursday night, as a late goal from Alex DeBrincat forced an overtime session that Florida won thanks to a goal from Sam Bennett to secure a 4-3 victory.

Despite the loss, though, it was encouraging to see several of Chicago’s young/new talent providing key contributions. Adam Gaudette scored the game’s first goal, Vinnie Hinostroza continued his career revival with a tally in the second and The Everything BHagel™ set up that Hinostroza goal with as pretty of a saucer pass as you’ll see.

It wasn’t a banner night for Kevin Lankinen in net, who let his water bottle feel the extent of those frustrations after Bennett’s game-winner. Lankinen will have his chance for redemption on Saturday evening, though, as coach Jeremy Colliton confirmed Lankinen will be the starter following the morning skate. He’ll be opposed by Sergei Bobrovsky in the Florida net.

Elsewhere in the lineups, Ian Mitchell returns in place of Nicolas Beaudin and Philipp Kurashev will suit up while Pope Pius Suter XXIV will have a night of rest on the eve of the sabbath. Colliton offered this sentiment as the justification for the moves:

While there is some logic to those points, it would also behoove the Hawks to use these low-stakes games as a chance to let those inexperienced skaters handle a few more shifts. On Thursday, Chicago’s top-three players in terms of ice time were, in order: Duncan Keith (25:46), Connor Murphy (22:55) and Patrick Kane (22:31). While Wyatt Kalynuk (20:30) and Kirby Dach (19:15) saw ample ice time, perhaps players with more to prove could be offered a few more minutes to keep the ice time numbers for that initial trio from soaring so high in a game that ultimately means nothing.

And there’s no better way to learn than by doing the things that result in a victory.

Let’s go Hawks!

Blackhawks — Statistic — Panthers

47.24% (26th) — Corsi For — 53.06% (6th)

45.28% (31st) — Expected goals for — 53.72% (4th)

2.80 (17th) — Goals per game — 3.24 (9th)

3.18 (23rd) — Goals against per game — 2.73 (12th)

46.8% (28th) — Faceoffs — 50.3% (14th)

22.4% (9th) — Power play — 21.2% (t-13th)

76.5% (27th) — Penalty kill — 79.3% (18th)

Projected lineups (subject to change)


Hinostroza — Kurashev — Kane

DeBrincat — Dach — Hagel

Kubalik — Strome — Gaudette

Hardman — Kampf — Connolly

Zadorov — Murphy

Keith — Kalynuk

Stillman — Mitchell




Denisenko — Barkov — Duclair

Huberdeau — Bennett — Tippett

Heponiemi — Wennberg — Vatrano

Acciari — Lammikko — Gusev

Forsling — Weegar

Kiersted — Montour

Yandle — Nutivaara



How to watch

When: 7 p.m.

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago, NBC Sports Network

Live stream: NBC Sports app, NHL.TV