Riding a two-game win streak and with a point in three straight, the Blackhawks host a Washington Capitals team riding a two-game win streak of their own on Sunday evening at the United Center (TICKETS).
Chicago's No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft will make his NHL debut tonight against the Capitals. Kirby Dach, who missed the entire preseason slate while in concussion protocol, played three games on a conditioning stint with the Rockford IceHogs over the last week and after being recalled on Friday night, will slot into the Blackhawks lineup for the very first time.
"For me to get this opportunity now, I'm speechless and at a loss for words," said Dach, who found out when he arrived to the United Center Sunday morning that he was in line for his debut. "I've just got to go out there and play my game and focus on the little things that the coaching staff wants me to do."
While in Rockford, Dach was unable to find the scoresheet for his first professional point, but took seven shots and had a -1 rating as the IceHogs went 1-2-0 in his three appearances. Regardless, it was a good stepping stone for not only the level of play, but the first competitive action the forward had seen in almost a month's time since September's Traverse City Prospect Tournament.
"It's good for me to go down there and play against bigger and stronger competition," he said. "It's not going to be at the same level that the NHL is, but coming from juniors where there's still young young kids there and guys trying to mature that way, for me to go down there and play against pro hockey players was a good experience."
"I think a lot of the things he was doing in those games in Rockford will transfer," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We liked his skating, he was competing, he was on the puck (and) won a lot of puck battles. He wasn't able to come through offensively but he very well could've with the plays he made and creating chances. He's going to be excited and have some energy and I hope we see that tonight."
Exactly where Dach will play, though, remains to be seen with Colliton not disclosing who he will replace in the forward group after the Blackhawks optional morning skate.
Colliton did confirm that Corey Crawford will return to the net, continuing the rotation between he a Robin Lehner, who stopped 37 of the 39 shots he faced in an OT win on Friday. Each goalie is coming off a winning performance with Crawford backstopping a 3-1 win over Edmonton last Monday.
"We feel like whoever is in, they're going to give us a chance to win," Colliton said. "That adds a lot of confidence to our group."
Chicago took a 3-2 OT win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night as Jonathan Toews scored his first of the year 46 seconds into the extra frame to seal the victory. Drake Caggiula struck for the first time this season and Alex DeBrincat scored his second of the year in the win. Patrick Kane assisted twice to bring his team-leading total to 7 points (2G, 5A) in five games.
Washington took a 5-2 win over the New York Rangers on Friday night on the back of a two-goal performance from T.J. Oshie and three assists from John Carlson. The Capitals have won three of their last four games while outscoring their opponents 13-6 in the victories.
A year ago, the home team took the points in the two-game season series: Washington a 4-2 win at home on Nov. 21 and Chicago an 8-5 win on Jan. 20 at the United Center. Toews (3G, 3A) and Kane (2G, 3A) led the Blackhawks in scoring, while Matt Niskanen (1G, 2A) led for Washington.
The two teams met in preseason play about a month ago, with the Capitals taking a 4-3 OT win on Oct. 16 in the nation's capital and a 6-0 win in Chicago on Oct. 25.