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Chicago Blackhawks at Tampa Bay Lightning Preview: Let’s gooooooooo!!

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The 2020-21 NHL season is officially underway.

Chicago Blackhawks v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Scott Audette /NHLI via Getty Images

Chicago Blackhawks at Tampa Bay Lightning: GAME# 1

Time: 8:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena (Home of the Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning)

Broadcast/Streaming: NBCSports

Opponent SBNation Site:

Second City Hockey

Preview:

Can you believe it is time for hockey again? On one hand it seems like it was just yesterday that we were celebrating a Lightning Stanley Cup. On the other, it also feels like it was seventeen months and four “Tyler Johnson on waivers” stories ago. Nonetheless, it’s hockey season once again and Tampa Bay kicks off their title defense against the team from Chicago in prime time on national TV (which is cool if you’re one of the many, many folks who are blacked out from local coverage thanks to Sinclair).

The Lightning are set to welcome back their captain, Steven Stamkos, on the top line and hope that a healthy season can mitigate some of the damage of not having an all around awesome hockey player, Nikita Kucherov, in the line-up. Tampa Bay wants to get off to a quick start and do away with any Stanley Cup Hangover talk before it becomes an issue. With a team that closely resembles the one that beat Dallas for the Cup a few months ago, they should have an advantage over teams that are trying to work in new players, like Chicago.

While Chicago remains one of the marquee teams for NBC and NHL marketing, their roster looks quite a bit different than it has in years past. Go ahead and scroll down to the expected lines and see how many names you recognize...

Welcome back. That’s quite a collection of names, huh? To be fair, they are missing their top two centers in Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach due to injures. Dach broke his wrist at the most recent World Junior Tournament while Toews is out indefinitely with an undisclosed injury.

Even if those two were in the line-up it’s apparent that, despite their playoff appearance last season, the Hawks are in rebuild mode. They might not refer to it as such, and they might think they can muck along and contend for a playoff spot, but it’s going to be hard with a mostly unproven roster in a division that is pretty top heavy.

They will rely heavily on veteran Patrick Kane who had another solid season last year, and with Alex DeBrincat, an undersized playmaker who scored 41 goals two seasons ago. Duncan Keith is back to anchor the defense once again. The 37-year-old isn’t the player he was three or four years ago, but isn’t a slouch either. They are expecting big things from his partner, Connor Murphy, who had a good season for a bad defense last year.

Even more unproven than the offense will be the goaltending duo of Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia. The two young netminders may be in for a rough year as they battle it out for the starting job behind a team that is not expected to be very good.

Still, it’s a short season and anything can happen. The Lightning can’t afford to take any nights off or treat any opponent lightly. Chicago would love to start their season by knocking off the champs.

Comparison chart:

In lieu of any type of fancy charts how about a link to the first game in Lightning franchise history with this very same hockey team from The Windy City as their opponent? Well, not the very same team, Patrick Kane was only three and Brent Seabrook was still in the first year of his current contract when this game took place, but you know what I mean.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Steven Stamkos

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Mathieu Joseph

Barclay Goodrow - Yanni Gourde - Blake Coleman

Patrick Maroon - Mitchell Stephens - Alexander Volkov

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta

Mikhail Sergachev - Erik Cernak

Ryan McDonagh - Cal Foote

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney

Lines are based on the Lightning’s final practice of the preseason and may change before puck drop. We will update if we see anything change throughout the day.

Chicago

Forward Lines

Alex DeBrincat - Dylan Strome - Patrick Kane

Mattias Janmark - Lucas Wallmark - Andrew Shaw

Dominik Kubalik - Pius Suter - Brandon Pirri

Matthew Highmore - David Kampf - Ryan Carpenter

Defense Pairings

Duncan Keith - Connor Murphy

Calvin De Haan - Ian Mitchell

Nikita Zadorov - Adam Bogqvist

Goalies

Malcolm Subban

Collin Delia

Lines based on a tweet from Chicago’s practice on January 11th. They could change. They will probably change. No idea who is actually starting in net, but we will update once we find out anything for sure.