Coming off of back-to-back wins, the Blackhawks look to secure a third straight victory on Thursday evening when they host the Montreal Canadiens for a 7:30 p.m. puck drop at the United Center.
In their last meeting back on Dec. 9, the Blackhawks came away with 2 points in a 2-0 victory. Their effort in Montreal earned Marc-Andre Fleury his 500th career win in net.
Not all that much has changed since the two teams last met. The Blackhawks are still trying to inch towards a .500 record, currently sitting at 13-18-5. The Canadiens are still struggling due to injuries and poor play and own a record of 7-24-4. However, Thursday night’s matchup has generated a bit of excitement as the Blackhawks announced the call-up of star prospect Lukas Reichel.
Lukas Reichel will make his NHL debut tomorrow vs. Canadiens, Derek King says.— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) January 12, 2022
Reichel, Chicago’s No. 17 overall pick in 2020, has been nothing short of impressive during his time with the Icehogs. In his 20-game AHL stint, Reichel has tallied 20 points (11 G, 9 A) in 20 games. And although the southpaw centerman has missed some time due to concussion and COVID-19 protocols, he has since been cleared to play. How long he will remain on the NHL roster remains to be seen. If Reichel can make an impact in Chicago the way he did in Rockford though, it is hard to see him going anywhere else from here on out.
The rest of the Blackhawks lineup remains mostly unchanged. While Thursday’s morning skate was optional, Wednesday’s practice saw Reichel centering the top line along Dylan Strome and Patrick Kane. Seth Jones will miss another game due to COVID-19 protocol, while Erik Gustafsson will factor back in for the Hawks blueline. Fleury will once again get the start in goal against his hometown team.
Blackhawks lines in practice, featuring first-line Reichel:— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) January 12, 2022
Montreal’s roster, on the other hand, has been continuously stifled by injury and health and safety protocol. The Habs have a staggering 16 players out, including captain Shea Weber, star goalie Carey Price and big time scoring threat, Tyler Toffoli.
The Canadiens depleted roster is not completely deprived of talent, however. The Blackhawks will have to neutralize the Habs young forwards, mainly Nick Suzuki and Jonathan Drouin. The Blackhawks penalty kill is currently ranked 27th, with a lousy 75.2 percent success rate. Conversely, with the Canadiens expected to start Samuel Montembeault — a second year goalie — it’s almost equally important that they take advantage of any power play opportunities they are given. The Hawks power play has been just as abysmal as their PK, currently ranked 21st at 18.1 percent.
Thursday night’s game is a very winnable one for the Blackhawks. Their defense has to stay consistent, the special teams must perform better and, while they’re still searching for an offensive spark, it is entirely possible that the arrival of Reichel could provide just what the team needs. If things pan out the way the Hawks hope, all eyes could be on No. 27 in red for the fist time in over two decades.
Blackhawks — Statistic — Canadiens
47.08% (26th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 47.63% (24th)
45.91% (27th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 45.65% (29th)
2.29 (30th) — Goals per game — 2.09 (32nd)
3.4 (26th) — Goals against per game — 3.66 (29th)
48.7% (21st) — Faceoffs — 47.3% (27th)
18.8% (18th) — Power play — 10.5% (32nd)
74.8% (26th) — Penalty kill — 72.8% (28th)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
Strome — Reichel — Kane
DeBrincat — Toews — Kubalik
Borgstrom — Dach — Kurashev
Khaira — Carpenter— Entwistle
de Haan — Murphy
Stillman — Galvas
C. Jones — Gustafsson
Hoffman — Suzuki — Lehkonen
Drouin — Dvorak — Armia
Dauphin — Poehling — Caufield
Paquette — Vejdemo— Pezzetta
Kulak — Petry
Niku — Wideman
How to watch
When: 7:30 p.m. CT
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBC Sports Chicago