The Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers come into their first series of the season on even ground. Both teams with zero points in the standings. The difference is that the Blackhawks had to deal with the other Florida hockey team first and the Panthers had their season opener delayed due to the Dallas Stars COVID outbreak. So at least Chicago has been at game speed twice before the Panthers have. Chicago needs any kind of advantage that might pose for them this season.
• The Panthers have yet to skate at full speed this season. They will also be without their number one goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky, at least for the matchup on Sunday. Both play into Chicago’s favor.
• Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle has not been guaranteed a spot in the roster ahead of Sunday night’s season-opening game for Florida. Yandle, who is in year five of a seven-year contract with Florida, has played 866-straight NHL games and is the active “ironman” leader in the league. That streak is up in the air.
• The Blackhawks improved from game one to game two in their first two-game series of the season against the Tampa Bay Lightning. If Chicago can string together a more consistent effort against a team that is not a deeply talented across the board, the arrow should still trend upwards for the Blackhawks.
• This will be the third and fourth times that former Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville will be facing Chicago. The teams split their two contests last season before the pandemic stoppage. Florida won the first matchup 4-3, with Chicago winning the second 3-2 in the shootout.
Puck Drops and Broadcast Info
• Sunday, January 17 at 6 p.m. CT
TV: NBCSCH, FS-South, NHLN
Radio: WGN 720 AM
• Tuesday, January 19 at 6 p.m. CT
TV: NBCSCH, FS-South
Radio: WGN 720 AM
Blackhawks (0-2-0, 0 pts)
DeBrincat – Suter – Kane
Kubalík – Strome – Kurashev
Janmark – Wallmark – Shaw
Highmore – Kämpf – Carpenter
Keith – Murphy
Zadorov – Boqvist
de Haan – Mitchell
Panthers (0-0-0, 0 pts)
Verhaeghe – Barkov – Duclair
Huberdeau – Wennberg – Hornqvist
Vatrano – Luostarinen – Tippett
Lomberg – Acciari – Connolly
Weegar – Ekblad
Stillman – Gudas
Forsling – Stralman
Brent Seabrook (IR – Lower Back)
Zack Smith (IR – Back)
Kirby Dach (LTIR – Out 4-5 months – Wrist)
Alex Nylander (LTIR – Out 4-6 months – Knee)
Jonathan Toews (LTIR – Illness)
Markus Nutivaara (Day-to-day)
Sergei Bobrovsky (Day-to-day)
Noah Juulsen (Day-to-day)
Juho Lammikko (Day-to-day)
Keep An Eye Out For
Blackhawks building momentum: The Blackhawks started their season with arguably the toughest opponent they could have asked for. Losing back-to-back contests against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning by a combined score of 10-3 looked as bad as it sounds. But the silver lining coming out of the first series of the season for Chicago is that they improved their efforts from game one to game two. Playing a much more evenly match Panthers squad should give the Blackhawks an opportunity to make some plays they weren’t able to make against the Lightning, and have successes they haven’t been able to see yet. Score some goals, win a game or two, and the Blackhawks could gain some confidence moving forward.
Familiar faces in Florida: As mentioned before, the Panthers are led by former Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville. But he’s not the only recognizable face on the Florida bench. Anthony Duclair and Gustav Forsling will be lining up against their former teammates with Chicago. Beware of Duclair, he perpetually has had to prove himself as a top player in the NHL and is coming off of a breakout season last year. Playing against a team that let him walk will likely be extra motivation.