Game #14: Chicago Blackhawks (4-7-0) at Tampa Bay Lightning (6-3-4)
Time: 7:00 PM EST
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: BSSUN, ESPN+, NBC Sports Chicago
Opponent’s Site: Second City Hockey
Roll up for the Connor Bedard Magical Mystery Tour. The league’s latest phenom is set to make his Amalie Arena debut tonight as the Blackhawks make their annual visit to the area. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of this kid yet, I mean the league has been pretty mum when it comes to promoting the Next, Next One this year. If you haven’t been paying attention, last summer’s number one overall pick is off to a pretty decent start.
The 18-year-old has been playing about 19:27 per night on the ‘Hawks top line and has posted 5 goals and 2 assists in 11 games. That is tied for the most points for them (along with old friend Corey Perry) and is good for 5th overall for rookies in the league. Bobby Brink, Logan Cooley, Luke Evangelista, and Pavel Mintyukov all have 8 to tie for the early lead.
As for Chicago as a team? Well, they’ve been bad, but not “top of the draft two-years-in-a-row” bad. Yes, they are last in the Central Division, but only by a couple of points. Offense has been an issue as they are ranked 26th in the league at 2.35 GF/60 and 29th in xGF/60 with 2.78. They just haven’t generated a lot of scoring chances or brought the shot quality to the arena on a night-in, night-out basis.
Part of that can be attributed to the absence of off-season acquisition Taylor Hall, who has dealt with shoulder issues and missed four games. He returned to the line-up this past weekend and posted goals in both games they played. So they have that going for them.
They also have a lot of youth going for them. In addition to Bedard, they have 21-year-olds Wyatt Kaiser and Lukas Reichel playing on a nightly basis while 22-year-old defenseman Alex Vlasic is playing about 18 minutes a night. The rebuild is still in full effect, but much like the Lightning did way back in the 2008-09 season, they’ve also pulled in a veteran supporting staff to help out the kids.
Along with Perry and Hall, Nick Foligno was added in the offseason, signing a one-year, $4 million deal. He’s been on Bedard’s line of late (although that could change as Hall gets healthier). Another veteran on the team is a familiar name in Tyler Johnson. The former Bolt has been healthy and productive so far this year with 5 points in 11 games, including assists in his last two outings. (Not sure why he’s not centering a line with Hall and Taylor Raddysh for a Tyler and the Taylor’s Trio line).
As for the Bolts, they come back from a good, but not great road trip, picking up their first away victory and grabbing 5 out of a possible 8 points. With Conor Sheary going on IR there are likely to be some more line changes in store tonight. Walterri Merela is back and likely to draw in somewhere. The question will be if Tyler Motte stays on the Anthony Cirelli line or if Michael Eyssimont or Alex Barre-Boulet get the call.
Defensively, the trade of Zach Bogosian has pretty much solidified things with a right side mix of Erik Cernak, Darren Raddysh, Nick Perbix. Perbix was a healthy scratch in two of the last three games, but that could have been to accommodate an audition of Bogosian prior to his trade. As of right now, they only have six defensemen in Tampa, but Hayden Fleury, who played for the Crunch last night, is likely on his way back to town soon.
If recent history is any indication, it should be an interesting and goal-filled night at Amalie Arena.
|Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines
Brandon Hagel- Brayden Point – Nikita Kucherov
Steven Stamkos – Nick Paul – Alex Barré-Boulet
Tanner Jeannot – Anthony Cirelli – Mikey Eyssimont
Waltteri Merelä – Luke Glendening – Tyler Motte
Victor Hedman – Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev – Darren Raddysh
Calvin de Haan – Nick Perbix
Yeah, I’m just kind of spitballing the lines right now. Will update once we see what they roll out in the morning skate.
Updated based on the morning skate. Feed the Jeannot/Cirelli/Eyssimont line into my veins!
Chicago Blackhawks Projected Lines
Nick Foligno – Connor Bedard – Philipp Kurashev
Lukas Reichel – Andreas Athanasiou – Taylor Raddysh
Taylor Hall – Jason Dickinson – Tyler Johnson
Ryan Donato – MacKenzie Entwhistle – Corey Perry
Alex Vlasic – Seth Jones
Kevin Korchinski – Connor Murphy
Wyatt Kaiser – Jarred Tinordi
Question of the Night
Which member of the Lightning will take a swing at Corey Perry during a post-whistle scrum?