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Chicago Blackhawks: What to look for in preseason

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It’ll also be up to the veteran members of the team to step up as well this year. With some familiar hard-working faces, like star defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, gone this year, there will be big shoes to fill and Chicago needs to make sure that those gaps don’t show up on the ice. Toews and Kane, as well as returning Hawks like Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad, will all be part of the process of keeping things tight-knit and error free. They’ll pave the way for many of the newcomers and they should know what to expect, having played in the NHL for many years. Fans can expect Duncan Keith to kick his game into an even higher gear, now that he will likely be the leading face for the defensive end. Both he and Hjalmarsson did fantastic jobs, but with Hjalmarsson now in Arizona, Keith will be pulling a lot of weight.

Just as the veterans will have to help pave the way, the newcomers will also need to quickly adjust to the speed that the Blackhawks are looking for and their style of play. This will be key for the defense, where players like Trevor van Riemsdyk, Johnny Oduya, and Hjalmarsson are no longer part of the picture. New defensemen Jan Rutta, Jordan Oesterle, and Connor Murphy will all have a chance to make a big impact and they’ll want to do so as soon as possible. A lot of eyes will be on Murphy, as the Blackhawks are taking a chance on him. They’re hoping that he’ll turn into a standout player given the new team environment and that he can eventually fill the big hole that Hjalmarsson has left. Given the chance to do so, he could become a valuable player that they keep for years to come, but if he falters, it could lead to some bigger problems for the Blackhawks.

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The final touch on a great opening to the season will be setting up lines that the Blackhawks cannot lose with. Toews, who hasn’t had a stable left winger for a few seasons now, will finally get the chance to have a solid line with Saad’s return. Kane will be able to find some new chemistry with his teammates, having previously built up a lot of his plays with Panarin. It will also be essential to find balance among all four of the lines. When the line of Artem Anisimov, Panarin, and Kane was together, it was clear that they could score, but the rest of the team suffered as they depended on that sole line to try and carry them through a number of games. This year, it should be about getting that scoring and solid defense throughout the game, not just from a sole line. With talent spread throughout the lineup, Coach Joel Quenneville should be able to keep himself from hitting the blender button too often in games and situations of panic.

Getting off to a solid start will be a key move for the Chicago Blackhawks as they start preseason. With games not counting in the race for the cup, it gives them time to make adjustments and realize what they need to do to up their game. Messy penalty kills and sloppy lines are all a thing of the past, with the Hawks looking ahead to some big wins.

Yardbarker: NHL

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