Throughout the 2011 preseason, the chicagoblackhawks.com will preview each game with players to watch, notes and more.Last Season:
The Blackhawks play their first game in front of the home crowd this preseason, facing Eastern Conference contender Washington.
The Blackhawks dropped their only decision to Washington last year, a 4-3 overtime loss in our nation's capitol. Jonathan Toews
and Nick Leddy
each tallied in he contest, and Corey Crawford
made 38 saves in the effort.
Three Stars (Players to watch):
Dave Bolland: After missing portions of the last two seasons due to injury, Bolland has been training with Blackhawks Strength and Conditioning Coach Paul Goodman throughout the summer, and is in top shape coming into this season. When he's on, Bolland is an elite shutdown defensive center, and a very productive offensive player as well. If he can stay on the ice, the Blackhawks have a chance against any top offensive line in the league.
Duncan Keith: Keith returns to Chicago rested and rejuvenated, and the Blackhawks need another good year from their franchise defenseman to become a serious contender in the West. No NHL player logged more minutes than Keith last season, but with a deeper blue line this season, Head Coach Joel Quenneville may now have the option to shave a couple minutes from Duncs each game, making him all the more effective down the stretch.
Corey Crawford: The unquestioned #1 goaltender entering the season, it is up to Crawford to build on his outstanding rookie campaign (33-18-6, 2.30 GAA). Crawford spent the summer working on his quickness and puckhandling, and tonight will be his first opportunity to show off his offseason of work.
Rising Star (Must-watch prospect): Marcus Kruger will get another chance to impress Blackhawks management, coaches and fans tonight, and show that he can be the full-time NHL center that many predict. Kruger is known for his high hockey I.Q., and after adding size and strength in the offseason, the Swedish import could be ready to make a big step up in 2011-12.
Know the enemy (Opponent Report): Like the Blackhawks, the Caps wil also be playing their third exhibition game in four nights, having faced Nashville Tuesday and Columbus Wednesday, both losses. LW Alex Ovechkin is expected to be in the lineup.
Fun Fact: Jonathan Toews has recorded a goal in each of his last two regular-season appearances against Washington.
39 J. Hayes