Tuesday marks the Blackhawks' first game at the United Center since Nov. 13, as the team completed a 3-3-1 Circus Trip that featured ups and downs. The roster did suffer some injuries at the beginning and end of the journey, but Chicago did get important contributions from key players and newcomers. Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin shared the club lead with five points each in seven games, while Ryan Hartman tallied a team-best three goals.
The Blackhawks' homecoming opponents will be the Florida Panthers, who are on the second stop of a season-long six-game road trip that has begun under a shroud of uncertainty. Following a 3-2 loss on Sunday in Carolina, Gerard Gallant was relieved of his head coaching duties, which will be assumed in the interim by General Manager Tom Rowe.
Under Gallant, the Panthers began the season 11-10-1 and currently sit in fifth place in the Atlantic Division, with injuries a big culprit for the team's inconsistencies. While only top-line center Jonathan Huberdeau and defenseman Alex Petrovic currently remain on IR, Florida also lost veteran Jussi Jokinen for a couple of weeks in late October, and top-six forward Nick Bjugstad was out of action from the start of the season until Nov. 22, and is still playing a somewhat limited role.
The Blackhawks and Panthers split the season series in 2015-16, with both teams winning at home; Kane and Brent Seabrook led the team with three points each in Chicago's 3-2 win on Oct. 22.