The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks get ready to start another NHL season tonight as they host the Washington Capitals. The Blackhawks are coming off a strong preseason where they went 4-0-2 and are looking to carry that momentum into the season. There are a lot of familiar faces on the Blackhawks roster, with only a few changes. Prior to the game, the Blackhawks will raise another championship banner into the rafters at the United Center. The game will begin a few minutes before 7:30 pm CT due to the ceremony.
Here a few notes for tonight's game:
- The Blackhawks appear to be healthy as everyone will be dressed. Forwards Marian Hossa and Michal Handzus were deemed questionable a few days ago.
- Capitals forward Brooks Laich will also be suited up tonight. Laich has been battling through a hip flexor throughout the preseason.
- Hybrid icing will be in effect tonight and for the whole season as it received the NHL's approval. For those who are unfamiliar with hybrid icing, it can be simply described as a race to the final face off dot. If two players are in pursuit of the puck during an icing call, the player who reaches the back face off dot first will be given the advantage. If the defensive team's player reaches the dot first, the play will be blown dead resulting in icing. If the offensive player reaches the dot first, the play will continue. The league is hoping this will eliminate injuries and collisions against the boards, but it will certainly put more pressure on the officials to make the right call.
- The forward line combinations for the Blackhawks have been as follows throughout practice:
Line two: Sharp-Handzus-Hossa
Line three: Saad-Shaw-Hayes
Line four: Bollig-Kruger-Nordstrom
Ben Smith has been the odd man out.
Battle Between The Pipes:
Chicago Blackhawks: Corey Crawford will be in net for the Blackhawks tonight. Crawford had a 19-5-5 record in a shortened 2013 season and is coming off a solid outing in the playoffs where he was arguably the Blackhawks`best player.
Players To Watch:
Kane is coming off a strong 2013 season where he notched 55 points in 47 games. Kane also had a big postseason where he scored nine goals and added 10 assists en route to being named the Conn Smythe winner.
Ovechkin is the reigning Hart Trophy winner as the league`s most valuable player in the 2013 regular season. Ovechkin finished last season with 32 goals and 24 assists in 48 games.
Hayes has been a nice surprise for the Blackhawks this offseason. The 6`6 big man has started to add more to his game as his speed and hands have both improved.
Washington Capitals: Forward, Troy Brouwer
Tonight`s game marks the start of a new beginning for the Blackhawks. Although they are the defending Stanley Cup champions, the only thing that means heading forward is that teams will be targeting them in hopes of dethroning them. This Blackhawks team is certainly capable of repeating as champions as they definitely know what it takes to win.
Here`s hoping this season is as successful and exciting as last season.
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