CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawk are likely to use the same lineup in Game 4 against the Nashville Predators at United Center on Tuesday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA3, FS-TN, CSN-CH) as they used to win Game 3 for a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round series.
If so, forward Antoine Vermette will center the third line and forward Andrew Shaw will again move to right wing on the fourth line. Along with left wing Andrew Desjardins and center Marcus Kruger, the reconfigured fourth line was one of the Blackhawks’ most effective in Game 3.
Desjardins and Shaw aggressively forechecked, and their work forced some key turnovers in the Nashville end of the rink. Kruger, who looks to hop on turnovers, chipped in as well.
“You’ve got to take what’s given,” said Desjardins, who was scratched in the first two games of the series. “If that means chipping it in and going after it and creating turnovers, I think that’s the right play. When you’re on an odd-man rush, three-on-two, you’re going to try and do something with it off the rush, but besides that you’re trying to keep it simple and keep the puck going north. I think that leads to some success, especially with Shaw and [Kruger]. We’re all pretty good forecheckers, so I think that’s key.”
It’s big against Nashville, which is the faster team in this series. The Blackhawks have been outshot in each of the first three games and allowed more attempts than they’d hoped off odd-man rushes. A good way to prevent those rushes is an effective forecheck, which Chicago’s fourth line successfully did in Game 3.
They had some lapses and were on the ice for each Nashville goal, but the Blackhawks’ fourth line also held the puck in the Predators’ end of the ice for some extended stretches and sparked two Chicago goals.
“I like when we’re a little more aggressive on the forecheck, because that helps,” Kruger said. “That’s taking a lot out from [the Predators], because they don’t want to defend. They want to get up ice quickly. If we can stop that, then we’re happy. That’s what we want to do and that’s what [Desjardins and Shaw] are good at too.”
Here are the projected lineups:
Filip Forsberg – Mike Ribeiro – Craig Smith
Colin Wilson – Matt Cullen – James Neal
Mike Santorelli – Calle Jarnkrok – Viktor Stalberg
Gabriel Bourque – Paul Gaustad – Taylor Beck
Roman Josi – Seth Jones
Mattias Ekholm – Ryan Ellis
Victor Bartley – Cody Franson
Scratched: Kevin Fiala, Anton Volchenkov
Injured: Mike Fisher (lower body), Eric Nystrom (lower body), Shea Weber (lower body)
Brandon Saad – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
Kris Versteeg – Brad Richards – Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell – Antoine Vermette – Patrick Sharp
Andrew Desjardins – Marcus Kruger – Andrew Shaw
Johnny Oduya – Niklas Hjalmarsson
Duncan Keith – Michal Rozsival
Kimmo Timonen – Brent Seabrook
Scratched: Joakim Nordstrom, Teuvo Teravainen, Antti Raanta, David Rundblad, Kyle Cumiskey, Michael Paliotta
Injured: Daniel Carcillo (upper body)
Status report: Carcillo participated in the morning skate, but has not been medically cleared to play. He said he hopes to take the medical test to get clearance Wednesday. Carcillo has missed the final nine games of the regular season plus the first three games of this series.
Who’s hot: Toews had a goal and assist in Game 3, and is tied with Nashville forward Craig Smith and Anaheim Ducks right wing Corey Perry for the NHL lead with five points in the playoffs. Toews and Smith each have two goals and three assists thus far.