Throughout the 2011 preseason, the chicagoblackhawks.com will preview each game with players to watch, notes and more.
Hockey season is back in Chicago, as the Blackhawks kick off their preseason schedule tonight against the Edmonton Oilers in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
DATE / TIME: Tue., Sept. 20 / 8 p.m. CT.
VENUE: Credit Union Centre (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan)
BROADCAST INFO: The game will be broadcast live in the Chicago market only on chicagoblackhawks.com, with WGN Radio AM-720 announcers John Wiedeman and Troy Murray on the call.
The Blackhawks and Oilers met four times during the 2010-11 season, with both teams earning two wins. Chicago won both games in Alberta last year, while Edmonton posted two wins at the United Center over a ten-day span in October and November. The Blackhawks have won six consecutive games at Rexall Place and have not lost there since Feb. 6, 2008.
Three Stars (Players to watch):
Jonathan Toews: The Blackhawks’ captain enters the 2011 preseason looking to improve on a 2010-11 season that saw him pace the Blackhawks in points and finish as a runner-up for the Selke Trophy. Toews led Chicago with seven points (4G, 3A) in the four games against the Oilers last year.
Nick Leddy: After a very solid rookie season, Leddy has already drawn high praise from the coaching staff and teammate Sean O’Donnell for the hard work he put in this summer. With the changes to the defensive corps over the summer, Leddy will be looked at to take additional responsibilities on both ends of the ice.
Alexander Salak / Ray Emery: Head Coach Joel Quenneville said Monday that the netminders will split time tonight in Saskatoon, and the battle for the Blackhawks’ backup position will start at puck drop. Both players are viewed as viable candidates to back up Corey Crawford, and their play in the preseason will likely decide the position. Neither goaltender has ever faced the Edmonton Oilers in a regular-season contest. Look for Emery, who joined the Blackhawks as a free-agent invitee, and Salak, who the Blackhawks acquired from Florida last season, to get about even time in the crease tonight.
Rising Star (Must-watch prospect): Mark McNeill, the Blackhawks’ 2011 first-round draft pick (18th overall) will get his first action with the big club tonight, and the organization has high hopes for the center and his future within the organization. In 70 games with the WHL’s Prince Albert squad last season, McNeill tallied 81 points (32G, 49), good for second-most on the Raiders, while leading the team in assists.
Know the enemy (Opponent Report): All of Canada will be closely watching the Oilers' top line of Ryan Smyth, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle, after the three skated on a line together on Saturday and again on Monday in practice. However, tonight marks the first game action that the three will see on the same line. Tonight's game is the first for Smyth in his return to Edmonton; it also marks the first professional contest for 2011's top draft pick, Nugent-Hopkins.
Fun Fact: Of the 21 players on the Blackhawks’ roster for tonight’s game, 13 (Danault, Hayes, Mayers, McNeill, Olesz, Saad, D. Toews, Fahey, Lavin, Lepisto, Montador, Salak and Emery) have never played a game – regular-season or exhibition – with the Blackhawks.
26 D. TOEWS
19 J. TOEWS