The Chicago Blackhawks
kick off a season-high nine-game road trip in Vancouver on Tuesday night with three lineup additions, none bigger than captain Jonathan Toews
and sniper Patrick Sharp
, who both return from left wrist injuries in time to face their biggest rivals.
"It's a good way to get started," said Sharp, who has been out just over three weeks. "You never want to sit out these games, whether it's a playoff game or regular season, it's always a great atmosphere. Two teams that are great teams that obviously don't like each other, but it's a lot of fun to play these games. I think both sides will say that, so I wouldn't miss this one for the world."
Toews only missed a game and a half and doesn't expect to miss a beat on the top line, but Sharp returns sooner than expected and to a new-look second line anchored by ex-Canucks center Brendan Morrison
. Acquired by the Blackhawks from Calgary over the All-Star weekend, Morrison will start with his new team playing between Sharp and fellow sharp-shooter Marian Hossa
"This guy is third in the League in scoring right now, and talking to some guys in here they feel he could be the best player in the League right now," Morrison said of Hossa. "He's a game-breaker. There's a lot of guys in here -- (Patrick) Kane, Toews, Sharp, (Duncan) Keith, (Brent Seabrook
) -- I look around the room and there's a great supporting cast. … I have been lucky over the years to play with some pretty high-end talent, guys like Markus (Naslund) and Todd (Bertuzzi) and Jarome (Iginla). Just to be in that mix and be a part of it should be fun."
With three new bodies on the top lines, there are changes on the bottom two as well. Dave Bolland
is back in his usual spot as a third-line checking center, flanked now by Marcus Kruger
, who slides down and over from the second-line center spot taken by Morrison, and rookie Andrew Shaw
"We're comfortable with (Kruger) against anybody and Shaw has played extremely well -- there's upside offensively and defensively," coach Joel Quenneville
said, warning the new looks may not last too long. "It's something we're going to try and we'll see how long it goes."
, who was made a healthy scratch for the first time in Chicago’s last game before the All-Star break, returns on a fourth line with veterans Jamal Mayers
and Andrew Brunette
, with Bryan Bickell
coming out of the lineup as a healthy scratch. Rookies Jimmy Hayes
, Ben Smith
and Brandon Pirri
have all been sent back to the American Hockey League since playing in Chicago's last game before the All-Star break, and the Blackhawks know they have little margin for error as they prepare to spend the next 19 days on the road, a trip Quenneville has broken into three segments.
"From Game 48, where we were first in the League, to Game 50, where we are sixth in the conference, it's pretty amazing the ground we lost," he said. "Our division is going to be tough to the end."
Tonight's projected lineups:
- Jonathan Toews
- Patrick Kane
- Brendan Morrison
- Marian Hossa
- Dave Bolland
- Andrew Shaw
- Jamal Mayers
- Andrew Brunette
- Brent Seabrook
- Niklas Hjalmarsson
- Steve Montador
On the back end, it appeared Sean O'Donnell
, who was out skating late, could come out in favor of the 6-foot-8 Scott on the third pairing:
- Henrik Sedin
- Alexandre Burrows
- Ryan Kesler
- David Booth
- Cody Hodgson
- Jannik Hansen
- Maxim Lapierre
- Dale Weise
- Kevin Bieksa
- Sami Salo
- Aaron Rome
Nothing changes except the goalie for the Canucks, who will start Schneider for the first time in three weeks, in part, coach Alain Vigneault
said, because he was able to work out during the All Star break, while Luongo traveled with family.