CHICAGO -- Just one more home game remains before the Chicago Blackhawks go through arguably their toughest stretch of the schedule following the All-Star break.
That game is tonight against the surging Nashville Predators, and the Hawks will be without their captain and top-line center, Jonathan Toews, who was placed on injured reserve today due to an upper-body injury.
Dave Bolland will move up from third-line center to replace Toews on the top line between Viktor Stalberg and Patrick Kane, while rookies Marcus Kruger and Brandon Pirri will man the middle for the second and third lines. Veteran Jamal Mayers will remain in his regular role as the fourth-line center.
Patrick Sharp also is out with an upper-body injury, so the Hawks could start five rookie forwards against the Preds, who have won three games in a row and 11 of their past 13 to make the tight race in the Central Division between the
Hawks, St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings even tighter.
"I don't know if I'm surprised," Bolland said of the clogged division standings. "I knew it was going to be a tough time with the teams that we have with us, Detroit, (St. Louis) and Nashville and all the teams we have in our division. We knew it was going to be a tough year and not going to be an easy one."
Tuesday's game won't be easy, either, despite Nashville having hosted Columbus last night while the Hawks had the night off.
"It's definitely a grind and that's what we're going to talk about and reinforce as we go along here, but it's about board balance, puck protection, supporting the puck, traffic and simple plays," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said of his team's approach to beating the Preds without Toews and Sharp. "It doesn't have to be pretty."
Here is a look at how the Predators and Blackhawks could line up tonight:
Colin Wilson - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Jordin Tootoo - Nick Spaling - Gabriel Bourque
Jerred Smithson - Craig Smith - Matt Halischuk
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Roman Josi - Kevin Klein
Jack Hillen - Ryan Ellis
Pekka Rinne will start in goal, with Anders Lindback the backup.
Viktor Stalberg - Dave Bolland - Patrick Kane
Andrew Shaw - Marcus Kruger - Marian Hossa
Andrew Brunette - Brandon Pirri - Jimmy Hayes
Bryan Bickell - Jamal Mayers - Ben Smith
Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Sean O'Donnell - Steve Montador
Corey Crawford will start in goal, with Ray Emery the backup.
In the morning skate, Bickell and Michael Frolik split shifts at fourth-line left wing, so either could get the start, with the other being scratched.