The Chicago Blackhawks failed to impress in their first game of the season, losing 5-2 to division rivals St. Louis. Despite the ugly loss, there are plenty of reasons to believe Chicago will be better when they visit the Nashville Predators on Friday night, namely the return of Niklas Hjalmarsson.
Hjalmarsson was suspended for much of the pre-season and the first game of the regular season for a charge/ hit to the head of St. Louis forward Ty Rattie. Hjalmarsson is one of the top defensive defensemen in the NHL, and a very good penalty killer. After the Blues scored three powerplay goals on the Hawks, Hjalmarsson returning to the PK will be a welcome addition.
The Blackhawks have great depth on the backend, with Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Hjalmarsson, Brian Campbell, Gustav Forsling, Michal Kempny, and Trevor Van Riemsdyk. The latter struggled in the home opener, taking two bad penalties. Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times believes Van Riemsdyk will be the healthy scratch tonight, after Kempny and Forsling both had solid NHL debuts.
Van Riemsdyk admits he has work to do, but is glad the Blackhawks have some competition on the blue line, saying it “always brings out the best in you.”
Whoever sits out, the Blackhawks will dress a dependable defence against P.K. Subban and the skilled Predators.