Update: The Blackhawks will be broadcasting the game on the radio and posted this link to WGN radio for our listening pleasure.
Johan Franzen was absent from practice this morning with a sore hip flexor, and Todd Bertuzzi took his place on the top line with Alfredsson and Weiss. Franzen will most likely sit this game out because it's not worth risking an injury in a preseason game. Let's look at the lineup for tonight.
|Todd Bertuzzi||Stephen Weiss||Daniel Alfredsson|
|Tomas Jurco||Riley Sheahan||Gustav Nyquist|
|Teemu Pulkkinen||Andreas Athanasiou||Mitch Callahan|
I saw an ornery Bertuzzi over the weekend, and I like it. He not only looks to me like he’s physically healthy, but he’s working hard and playing well. He’s making great passes, carrying and handling the puck very nicely, and being a physical presence. Bert looks strong, mentally sharp, and ready to fight for his spot on the roster. I like what I’ve seen from him all week. Alfredsson and Weiss played with Franzen during camp, and that line was disappointing. Since this line will be three people who haven't really play together before (Franzen and Alfredsson in international play doesn't count) it will probably take some for them to really get going. With Franzen probably out of the lineup tonight, maybe Bert can help get things going. What I saw from Alfredsson was a very very smart, skilled, hard working player who has earned his reputation. Weiss was working, working, working, and while he wasn't flashy or jaw dropping, I think think some of his quietness was due to figuring out the new team, new system, new coaches, etc.
The "almost ready Griffins and the Griffin for life" line. Since these guys played a lot of hockey together in Grand Rapids last season, and Jurco and Sheahan played on the same line in the Prospect Tournament, hopefully we'll see some of the chemistry and familiarity pay dividends. We're all familiar with Nyquist, and hey look, he's on the second line! Sheahan has made huge strides in his development in the last 6 months. He's good at taking faceoffs, he's physical, he's defensive responsible, he plays in every situation, he's good in front of the net, he can make plays, he can shoot the puck, and he can score. Obviously these things will take time at the NHL level, but he's impressed me with how much he's improved since the start of last season. Tomas Jurco has always been known for his dazzling hands, but he's been working hard to show that he's a complete player who can be counted on defensively as well. He's done just that and has really rounded into a complete player with a great work ethic. I'll be watching this line with great interest.
No surprise to see this line together. This line can shut down the opposition's third/fourth lines like nobody's business, but Miller and Eaves both have some offensive flair as well. We've seen them in action together a lot,and if it's not broken, why mess with it?
Oh boy, oh boy, OH BOY! I can't wait to see this line. Not because I think they'll be stunning, but because it's the NHL debut for each of them. I'm going to set my expectation at "doesn't look like a mess" and hope to be very pleasantly surprised. Angus is a fearless, tenacious kid who isn't afraid of anything or anyone, and oh mama what a Holy Slapper! Athanasiou is lighting fast, like maybe faster than Helm fast, and he has hands! He just needs to learn more control so he can use both his speed and his hands at the same time. He has a lot of learning to do, which is to be expected since he's only 19, but he has a lot of talent and skill. Callahan is the "veteran" on this line, though he's playing in his first NHL game as well. He's transformed himself from being known as tough guy, into a very useful hockey player who will still drop the gloves and stand up for his teammates. Last year in Grand Rapids he really developed and discovered his offensive abilities, improved his defensive game, and earned the trust of coach Blashill and was used in just about any game situation.
|Niklas Kronwall||Jonathan Ericsson|
|Nathan Paetsch||Brian Lashoff|
You probably noticed right away that there's an extra pair here. The Wings are taking all 8 defensemen to Chicago, but only 6 will dress.
We don't know yet which two players will be left out, but I really really really hope it's not Ouellet and Sproul. The diggers are reporting that Ouellet and Sproul will play tonight, but I already wrote up the preview on Nedomlel and Nicastro and I'm not deleting it.
Not much needs to be said for these two. Riggy looked really like our best defenseman in camp and seems to have picked up right where he left off last season. Kronwall is the leader, the veteran, and now the "old man" on defense. Haha
Paetsch played 157 NHL games for the Sabres and 10 for the Blue Jackets from 2005-2010 and he's played 319 games in the AHL. Lashoff's played 31 games with the Wings last year after being an emergency call up and he played well at times, and looked like a rookie (shocking, I know) at others. These guys both played with the Griffins last season, so maybe their familiarity will be a benefit to both of them.
This is the pairing I'm drooling over, and it's like they were made for each other. I've been singing the praises of Xavier Ouellet since I saw him in development camp, and I'm going to keep singing. He's smart, he's smooth, he has a beautiful shot from the point, and he's solid defnsively; he's not as flashy as Sproul, but we know you don't have to be flashy to be a great defenseman. Ouellet has been the best defenseman in the QMJHL the last two years, and Sproul was the CHL defenseman of the year last season. Sproul is more offensive and flashy with his play, and Ouellet is more defensively sound. Ouellet is a left shot, Sproul is a righty. They've shown great chemistry together and are both incredibly talented players. They shall henceforth be known as "SprOuellet" and shall go forth and conquer the world. Ok, ok. Realistic expectations for this game... Both of these guys have been dominating in their respective leagues (Ouellet QMJHL, Sproul OHL) but this is a big step up in speed and level of competition. They're both only 20 and starting their first year in pro hockey, so mistakes will be made. I've been pleasantly surprised how smoothly Ouellet has made his transition thus far, and I think both of these kids will be on the fast track to the NHL.
Nedomlel is a defensive defenseman who's smart, big, physical, and even against the NHL players in training camp, didn't look too out of place. Nicastro is a smart puck moving defenseman with a hard shot, who's more of an offensive than defenseman defenseman, but I'd put him somewhere in the middle right now. He had a hard time holding on to a spot on the Griffins roster last season and split time between there and the ECHL Walleye.
Jonas Gustavsson will play 2 periods tonight. He looked good in camp, calmer, more comfortable and confident. His shorter pads (to comply with the new NHL goalie equipment regulations) seemed to be a good thing for him and a summer of working out off the ice, and working with the goalie coaches on the ice seem to have made a big improvement. It's too early to know for sure, but right now I'm not worried about him being our back up. For what it's worth, Monster stopped 40/43 shots in 3 scrimmages in a total of 110 minutes played.
Jared Coreau will play the 3rd. This will be the first pro game for Coreau, and he's only had 2 prospect tournament games and 3 training camp scrimmages to shake off the rust from shoulder surgery last spring. For what it's worth, he stopped 32/36 shots in 3 scrimmages in a total of 105 minutes played. I'm very much looking forward to seeing him in his first pro game; even if it is a preseason game.
I haven't heard yet what lineup Chicago is expecting to ice, but it's their first preseason game so anything goes.