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Blackhawks' Panarin questionable against Sharks

Rookie game-time decision after missing morning skate

by Brian Hedger / NHL.com Correspondent

SHARKS (27-20-4) at BLACKHAWKS (36-16-4)

TV: 8:30 p.m. ET; CSN-CA, CSN, NHL.TV

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks rookie left wing Artemi Panarin is questionable for the game against the San Jose Sharks at United Center on Tuesday.

Panarin missed the morning skate with an illness and will be a game-time decision.

"He's sick today, we'll see how he is ... could play," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.

If Panarin doesn't play, forward Jiri Sekac will likely enter the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past two games. Panarin is the fourth Blackhawks player to come down with an illness in the past three weeks. 

The first was center Artem Anisimov, followed by Sekac and captain Jonathan Toews, who missed the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Game because of it and had to serve a one-game suspension after the All-Star break. 

Chicago has played the most games in the NHL, including nine of its past 11 on the road. 

"It's the schedule," Quenneville said. "We're busy having to travel numerous places. You look around the League, you see a lot of guys missing games due to illness. That's all part of it. Our trainers and our medical team are doing a tremendous job of preventing it getting multiple guys, so it's something we'll keep an eye on." 

Other than Panarin, the Blackhawks' lineup will remain unchanged. Goalie Corey Crawford will start for the fourth straight game since the All-Star break and make his 46th appearance of the season. He's two wins shy of tying his career-high of 33 wins in a single season. 

Chicago has two more back-to-backs left in its remaining 26 regular-season games, so Quenneville has some goaltending decisions to make prior to the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Backup goalie Scott Darling has made 13 appearances, going 5-4-2 with a 2.61 goals-against average and .911 save percentage. 

"We'll see how it all plays out," Quenneville said. "We're going to have to get [Darling] in there at some point, so we'll see how things are going and how things are sorting out in the playoff race, and sometimes it could be the opponent that could dictate that. I would expect [Darling] getting more than those back-to-back starts, looking at it on paper." 

Crawford appeared in a career-high 59 games in 2013-14, when he made 56 starts and went 32-16-10 with a 2.26 GAA and .917 save percentage. He's on pace to set new highs in games and starts, and one win away from tying his win total from each of the past two seasons (32). 

"Whatever the number is, he's fresh [and] he likes the workload," Quenneville said of Crawford. "We want to keep him ready to play, and at the same time make sure he's fresh. We'll sort that balance out with [goaltending coach Jimmy Waite] and him, and the schedule." 

San Jose held an optional skate after practicing Monday. Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said he will go with the same lineup from San Jose's 6-2 loss at the Nashville Predators on Saturday. 

That means goalie Martin Jones will make his eighth straight start and fourth since the All-Star break. The Sharks are looking forward to playing the Blackhawks, who've won three straight games, all on the road. 

San Jose played Chicago tough in the last game they played at United Center on Dec. 20. The Sharks, who didn't have injured center Logan Couture, lost 4-3 in overtime on a goal by Toews. Couture will see his first action against the Blackhawks this season. 

"Anytime you're playing the defending champions, it's a great measuring stick for us," DeBoer said. "They've been very good lately. These are the type of games that are easy to prepare for, because the guys know if they don't show up and aren't ready to play a complete game, you can get embarrassed in here. I think our group is looking forward to seeing where we're at." 

Here are the projected lineups: 

SHARKS 

Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski  

Matthew Nieto - Patrick Marleau - Joel Ward  

Joonas Donskoi - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels  

Melker Karlsson - Chris Tierney - Dainius Zubrus  

Paul Martin - Brent Burns  

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun  

Brenden Dillon - Dylan DeMelo  

Martin Jones 

Alex Stalock  

Injured: None 

Scratched: Mike Brown, Matt Tennyson  

BLACKHAWKS 

Andrew Shaw - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa  

Artemi Panarin - Artem Anisimov - Patrick Kane  

Andrew Desjardins - Phillip Danault - Teuvo Teravainen  

Brandon Mashinter - Dennis Rasmussen - Richard Panik  

Duncan Keith - Niklas Hjamlarsson 

Erik Gustafsson - Brent Seabrook  

Trevor Van Riemsdyk - Michal Rozsival  

Corey Crawford 

Scott Darling 

Injured: Marcus Kruger  

Scratched: Jiri Sekac, Rob Scuderi  

Status report: If Panarin doesn't play, look for Panik or Teravainen to fill his spot at left wing on the second line with Sekac on the fourth line. ... Brown appears headed for his fifth straight game as a healthy scratch. ... Tennyson hasn't played since Dec. 8, a span of 22 games divided by a two-game stint with San Jose of the American Hockey League. 

Who's hot: Panarin has two goals and five assists in his past five games, and has a three-game point streak for Chicago. ... Thornton has scored a goal in the past two games for San Jose.

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