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Blackhawks defenseman Dahlbeck to debut soon

by Brian Hedger



CHICAGO -- Klas Dahlbeck will have to wait another day, but the Swedish rookie defenseman will make his NHL debut soon for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Chicago hosts the Montreal Canadiens on Friday at United Center and then will play Saturday at the Nashville Predators.

The game against Nashville might be the first NHL game for Dahlbeck, 23, who is the third rookie defenseman to join the Blackhawks through the first 25 games. A long-term injury to rookie Trevor van Riemsdyk, combined with the preseason trade of steady defenseman Nick Leddy, has left a void on Chicago's third defense pairing.

Veteran Michal Rozsival, who split time as the Blackhawks' sixth defender the past two seasons, is playing increased minutes and the top pairings also have seen a bump in ice time during close games.

"It's part of the game," veteran Johnny Oduya said after the Blackhawks' morning skate. "[Rookies] make up for their lack of experience maybe with their excitement level and obviously their work ethic too. I'm not really worried and I don't think anybody [on the team] is. [Nothing] changes in our team game really. We try to play the same game."

The injury to van Riemsdyk (patella fracture) particularly was tough. He had earned coach Joel Quenneville's trust and played the first 18 games of the season. His injury will keep him out for up to four months. The first chance to replace him went to 24-year old David Rundblad and rookie Adam Clendening.

Clendening, who was sent down to make room for Dahlbeck, played four games before he was scratched in three straight. Rundblad, who will play against Montreal, has three assists and a plus-5 rating in 12 games. Dahlbeck, a stay-at-home type similar to Niklas Hjalmarsson, appears to be the next one up.

"I've been looking forward to this day my whole life so I've just got to be ready when that day comes," Dahlbeck said. "It's an adjustment period coming over from Europe and I feel a lot more comfortable now, getting into all those different situations you get on the smaller ice with everything happening a little quicker on it. So I think I've improved a lot in that area."

The Canadiens had the same line combinations at their morning skate that they used in the third period of a 2-1 loss Wednesday at the Minnesota Wild. That means forward Dale Weise gets a chance to log top-line minutes at right wing, while PA Parenteau moves to right wing on the third line.

"I liked the way we played in that third period when we made those line changes," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "Hopefully we're going to build on that. [Weise] has got an opportunity tonight and it's up to him to make sure he's got a solid game."

Montreal likely will need that kind of effort from all four lines against Chicago, which is 9-2-0 in its previous 11 games and has won four straight.

"Right now we're probably meeting the hottest team in the League," Therrien said. "This is a good hockey team. For me, tonight, it's about attitude. When you are ready to play and win games you've got the right attitude and you're ready from the start."

Here are the projected lineups:


Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Dale Weise

Alex Galchenyuk - Tomas Plekanec - Brendan Gallagher

Jiri Sekac - Lars Eller - PA Parenteau

Eric Tangradi - Manny Malhotra - Brandon Prust

Andrei Markov - P.K. Subban

Sergei Gonchar - Alexei Emelin

Tom Gilbert - Mike Weaver

Carey Price

Dustin Tokarski

Scratched: Drayson Bowman, Bryan Allen

Injured: Michael Bournival (shoulder)


Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Kris Versteeg - Brad Richards - Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell - Andrew Shaw - Daniel Carcillo

Joakim Nordstrom - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Michal Rozsival - David Rundblad

Antti Raanta

Scott Darling

Scratched: Klas Dahlbeck, Jeremy Morin

Injured: Patrick Sharp (lower body), Corey Crawford (lower body), Trevor van Riemsdyk (patella)

Status report: Weaver is set to re-enter the lineup in place of Allen, who had played five of the previous six games after being acquired in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks. ... Morin will be scratched for the eighth time in the past nine games and seventh time in a row. Quenneville said he might get sent to Rockford of the American Hockey League for more playing time at some point.

Who's hot: Kane had two-goal games in two of the past three games. He has nine goals with nine assists in the past 15 games. ... Versteeg had one goal and two assists Wednesday against the St. Louis Blues and has points in nine of his past 11 games. ... Subban has points in three straight games; he has one goal and three assists in that stretch.

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