They were very close to pulling out a win, but the Blackhawks couldn’t hold off the Washington Capitals in their preseason opener, losing 3-2 in overtime Saturday night at the United Center.
Though it’s hard to find a bright side in giving up three unanswered goals, one could be found in the play of prospect Jack Skille, who scored the Hawks’ second goal and played a strong game overall. Skille made an impressive play on his scoring strike, using a defenseman as a screen as he blasted a slap shot from the faceoff circle past Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth.
“There was a turnover in the middle of the ice and I was lucky enough to come across it,” said Skille. “I was pretty happy with [the play] overall. It’s a monkey off of my back; let’s see if it opens the floodgates for me.”
Skille is one of the many young players hoping to crack the Blackhawks’ opening night roster, a tough task with all but a few spots all but assured to other forwards.
Including the free agent signees and every forward from the 2009 playoff roster, the Blackhawks currently have 14 forwards slated for 13 spots at the most. That figure doesn’t include prospects such as Skille and 2008 first-round pick Kyle Beach
, who could be ready for the NHL but could still be locked out because of the Blackhawks’ depth.
“It’s a hard decision for them; hopefully I can break the lineup.” Skille said. "It’s a highly-skilled team. They just want a guy to go hard on the forecheck and be an energy forward. That’s more important than scoring a goal; scoring is just a [bonus] right now.”
“Jack had a really nice game today,” head coach Joel Quenneville said. “He was very noticeable on a lot of shifts. It was good to see.”
The other major camp competition – the backup goaltender duel between Antti Niemi and Corey Crawford
– took the night off, as starter Cristobal Huet played the entire game, surrendering three goals on 30 shots. Niemi and Crawford will split time during tomorrow’s game at Minnesota.
“We’re going to get each of those guys half a game tomorrow,” Quenneville said. “We’ll keep all [of our goaltenders] busy for a while.”
Because it’s preseason, and the first game to boot, none of the players or coaches is assigning the loss any more value than it deserves. The exhibition season is a time for learning and rounding into game shape, and Saturday's game was a learning experience for everyone.
“I thought there were some positives in the game; we showed some good effort and did some good things,” said Patrick Sharp
, who scored Chicago’s other goal. “We’re still a little rusty in some areas. Thankfully, we can look at the video from tonight and learn from it.”