CHICAGO – The Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks both opted not to have a morning skate at United Center before facing each other Wednesday night.
That means questions about the playing status of Chicago players will have to wait until Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville meets with the media Wednesday afternoon. The first will pertain to rookie center Marcus Kruger, who was hit hard by Derek Engelland early in the first period Tuesday night in Pittsburgh and didn’t return to the ice.
Quenneville said after the 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins that Kruger was “OK,” but did not say whether he would be able to play against Montreal. Quenneville might also be asked about defenseman Brent Seabrook, who was seen skating slowly toward the Chicago bench late in the game Tuesday holding his arm. Seabrook also had to leave a game Sunday at United Center after a hit from behind by Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque drove his head into the boards.
Quenneville said that Seabrook leaving that game was mostly a precaution, as the star blueliner has had three undisclosed upper-body injuries in the past that are believed to have been concussions. Another question for Quenneville will likely be about who starts in net for the Hawks.
Ray Emery has started six straight games, including Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, but Quenneville said after the morning skate Tuesday that it was “very likely” Corey Crawford would start against the Canadiens – which would be his first start since being pulled from a Dec. 5 game against the Phoenix Coyotes.
As for Montreal, the biggest lineup questions are on the blue line. Recently-named head coach Randy Cunneyworth shuffled up his top defense pairings Monday against the Boston Bruins by putting Raphael Diaz with Josh Gorges and sliding P.K. Subban next to Hal Gill.
Subban and Gorges had been playing together since the start of the season in October, but Gill and formed a pair for most of last season. Cunneyworth also said that Peter Budaj will get the start in net instead of Carey Price.
Here’s a look at the projected lineups:
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Mike Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Travis Moen
Andrei Kostitsyn - Lars Eller - Louis Leblanc
Mathieu Darche - Petteri Nokelainen - Mike Blunden
Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Hal Gill - Raphael Diaz
Tomas Kaberle - Chris Campoli
Andrew Brunette - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Sharp
Viktor Stalberg - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Jeremy Morin
John Scott - Jamal Mayers - Michael Frolik
Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Sean O'Donnell - Steve Montador
Note: If Kruger is able to play, the Blackhawks lines will likely change. Kruger left the loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins after one period, which forced Quenneville to move star forward Patrick Kane w back to center of the second line between Stalberg and Hossa. Brunette and Sharp were also moved to the top line with Toews, while rookie Jeremy Morin -- who started that game on the top line -- was bumped down to the third line with Bickell and Bolland. Imposing 6-foot-8 defenseman John Scott, who can play some wing on the fourth line when needed, could also find his name in the lineup again after standing up for Kruger by fighting -- and punishing -- Pittsburgh's Derek Engelland for the hit, which the Hawks took exception to, despite not being penalized.