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At the Rink: Sabres at Blackhawks

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- Coach Dan Bylsma said he knows his Buffalo Sabres will have more than Patrick Kane to worry about when trying to slow the Chicago Blackhawks' dominant second line Friday at United Center (8:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, MSG-B, BELL TV, CSN-CH).

Left wing Artemi Panarin leads NHL rookies in goals (15), assists (23) and points (38). He led the Blackhawks to a home-and-home sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday and Wednesday, scoring two goals in each game.

Panarin's skill adds to a line that features Kane, the League's leading scorer with 60 points, and 6-foot-4 center Artem Anisimov, who has three goals and an assist in the past five games.

"I think [Blackhawks general manager] Stan Bowman has done a really good job insulating [Panarin]," Bylsma said. "Anisimov on his line ... I think that's been a huge part of his assimilation on this team and to be playing in the National Hockey League. And then to be accented with the skill Patrick Kane is bringing? I mean, right now that line looks like they've played together forever."

Bylsma watched video of the Blackhawks' wins against the Penguins earlier this week and said he especially was impressed with Panarin's first goal in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win at United Center on Wednesday.

He said playing against that line now is essentially like defending a line with two versions of Kane on the wings.

"The shift they had last game, where Panarin scored the [first] goal, was one of the most dynamic 45 seconds of offensive-zone hockey you're ever going to see," Bylsma said. "Some of the great lines or duos in our game have been reading off each other, working off each other. Jari Kurri was great in his own right [with the Edmonton Oilers] and got to do it next to Wayne Gretzky. They played off each other, worked off each other and used the strengths of each other."

Buffalo (15-21-4) will start goalie Chad Johnson in net. Chicago (25-13-4) will start Corey Crawford, who got a rest in the win Tuesday against Pittsburgh.

The Sabres didn't go through line rushes or reveal defense pairings during their morning skate, a day after mixing up the defense pairings in practice. Bylsma didn't reveal any lineup changes other than Johnson getting back in goal.

Marian Hossa didn't participate in the Blackhawks' skate but is expected to play. Coach Joel Quenneville said the absence of Hossa, who will turn 37 on Jan. 12, was for rest.

The Blackhawks' forward lines will remain unchanged from what they've been during their five-game winning streak. Quenneville said he's liked what he has gotten from the current setup, especially when Panarin and second-year forward Teuvo Teravainen shoot the puck.

"When these guys think of shooting first, with a shot-first mentality, it opens things up and they're more dangerous," Quenneville said. "Their selection is high-end and I think they both shoot the puck well, so think like that first and foremost."

Here are the projected lineups:


Evander Kane - Ryan O'Reilly - Sam Reinhart

Zemgus Girgensons - Jack Eichel - Jamie McGinn

Marcus Foligno - Johan Larsson - Brian Gionta

Matt Moulson - Tim Schaller - David Legwand

Josh Gorges - Zach Bogosian

Jake McCabe - Rasmus Ristolainen

Mike Weber - Cody Franson

Chad Johnson

Linus Ullmark

Injured: Cody McCormick (blood clot), Tyler Ennis (upper body), Nicolas Deslauriers (lower body), Robin Lehner (high ankle sprain), Mark Pysyk (fractured foot)

Scratched: Carlo Colaiacovo


Andrew Shaw - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Artemi Panarin - Artem Anisimov - Patrick Kane

Andrew Desjardins - Phillip Danault - Teuvo Teravainen

Bryan Bickell - Dennis Rasmussen - Ryan Garbutt

Duncan Keith - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Erik Gustafsson - Brent Seabrook

Trevor Van Riemsdyk - Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

Injured: Marcus Kruger (left wrist fracture)

Scratched: Brandon Mashinter, Rob Scuderi

Status report: Quenneville said recently-acquired forward Richard Panik is close to getting his U.S. work visa approved and Panik could join the Blackhawks as soon as Sunday against the Colorado Avalanche.

Who's hot: Kane has two goals and 10 points during a five-game point streak. … Eichel has two goals and six points during a four-game point streak.

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