Nick Schmaltz unlikely to play as Blackhawks host Predators

Chicago gets its first crack at the team that ended its 2016-17 season.

This one’s going to mean a little something extra.

On Saturday night, the Chicago Blackhawks (3-1-1) welcome the perpetrators of the team’s most shocking playoff exit in this era: the Nashville Predators (2-2-0).

The Hawks suffered their first regulation loss of the season in their last outing, with a controversial offsides challenge triggering a series of events that led to a 5-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild. For the last two games, coach Joel Quenneville has had to do a significant amount of line-juggling among his forwards.

Unfortunately that doesn’t look set to end Saturday with Nick Schmaltz likely to miss the game. He was skating during practice in the morning, but was notably absent from the morning lines. Tanner Kero was bumped to the second line with Artem Anisimov returning to his spot on the third line with Patrick Sharp and Alex DeBrincat.

It also looks like there will be a change on defense, although it’s unclear whether Jordan Oesterle is in for Michal Kempny or Cody Franson is in for Connor Murphy given conflicting reports from practice. Either way, some change looks to be in store on the blue line.

Nashville has also been shorthanded of late with Ryan Ellis sidelined from offseason surgery and Roman Josi missing the last two games due to a lower-body injury. Josi was skating with the team on Friday morning, though. Fellow blue-liner Yannick Weber left Thursday’s game against the Dallas Stars with an upper-body injury and he was not skating with the team on Friday. Their absence paved the way for 19-year-old defenseman Samuel Gerard to grab the spotlight on Thursday, scoring his first career NHL goal and adding an assist during the Predators 4-1 win.

You should know the drill with Nashville by now. The Predators have a lethal top line in Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson. After that, the forward depth leaves a lot to be desired. But that’s remedied by an excellent D corps, led by P.K. Subban. And if Josi returns to the lineup, it further solidifies one of the best units in the league.

One large question remains in net, though. While Pekka Rinne stonewalled the Blackhawks in their first-round series, the rest of his numbers that year weren’t as sterling. His .918 save percentage and 2.42 GAA in the regular season won’t win him any awards, and during the Stanley Cup Final that save percentage plummeted to .888. Which Rinne will the Hawks face on Saturday night? Can the 34-year-old goalie do it again?

Either way, expect a little bit more energy inside the barn at 1901 W. Madison on Saturday night.

Projected lineups


F1Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Richard Panik
F2Ryan Hartman - Nick Schmaltz - Patrick Kane
F3Patrick Sharp - Artem Anisimov - Alex DeBrincat
F4Lance Bouma - Tommy Wingels - John Hayden
D1Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
D2Gustav Forsling - Jan Rutta
D3Michal Kempny - Connor Murphy
GoaltenderCorey Crawford


F1Magnus Paajarvi - Paul Stastny - Vladimir Tarasenko
F2Jaden Schwartz - Brayden Schenn - Samuel Blais
F3Vladimir Sobotka - Ivan Barbashev - Dmitrij Jaskin
F4Scottie Upshall - Oskar Sundqvist - Kyle Brodziak
D1Joel Edmundson - Alex Pietrangelo
D2Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko
D3Vince Dunn - Robert Bortuzzo
GoaltenderJake Allen

How to watch Blackhawks vs. Predators

Start time: 7:30 p.m. CT
Location: United Center, Chicago IL