WASHINGTON -- As Chicago Blackhawks forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews remain out of the lineup while nursing injuries, the team has been buoyed by the recent play of its younger role players.
Forward Jeremy Morin, recalled from the American Hockey League when Kane was placed on long-term injured reserve March 21 after suffering an apparent knee injury two days earlier, has scored three goals in as many games.
Forward Ben Smith has also been contributing offensively with three goals in his past four games, all of which the Blackhawks have won.
In doing so, Morin and Smith have thrust themselves into the lineup conversation when the Blackhawks open the Stanley Cup Playoffs next week.
"Well obviously the goal is play in [the] playoffs," Morin said. "I can't control that. All I can do is if I'm in the lineup, just make the most of it. I'm trying to finish off the season the right way and just keep contributing."
Kane and Toews, who has missed the past four games with an upper-body injury, are expected to return for Chicago's first postseason game against a yet-to-be-determined opponent. Coach Joel Quenneville said Friday that both skated Thursday, adding that they "skated very well [and] looked good."
The Blackhawks will be bolstered by the respective returns of Kane and Toews. Those that have filled in for Chicago's star forwards will do whatever they can to complement them.
"We need them," Smith said of Kane and Toews. "That's a big thing. It's nice for some guys to get a little more confident playing in different situations. That will only be a help moving forward as they come back.
"Maybe our roles will be a little more pushed back, but that's the sport. We need those guys back to be our best as a team. Hopefully us bottom-six guys will be playing with a bit more confidence."
Here are the projected lineups for the Blackhawks and Washington Capitals for their game Friday at Verizon Center:
Patrick Sharp – Andrew Shaw – Marian Hossa
Kris Versteeg – Michal Handzus – Brandon Saad
Bryan Bickell – Ben Smith – Jeremy Morin
Brandon Bollig – Marcus Kruger – Joakim Nordstrom
Duncan Keith – Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya – Niklas Hjalmarsson
Nick Leddy – Sheldon Brookbank
Scratched: Matt Carey, Peter Regin, Michal Rozsival, David Rundblad
Injured: Patrick Kane (knee), Jonathan Toews (upper body), Nikolai Khabibulin (shoulder)
Mikhail Grabovski – Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin
Dustin Penner – Marcus Johansson – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Eric Fehr – Joel Ward
Evgeny Kuznetsov – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner – John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov – Tyson Strachan
Julien Brouillette – Connor Carrick
Scratched: Aaron Volpatti, John Erskine
Injured: Brooks Laich (groin), Mike Green (upper body), Jack Hillen (upper body), Patrick Wey (upper body)