The Chicago Blackhawks haven’t played a game since Monday night, and yet they’ve been plenty busy.
Last weekend they signed free agent C Drew LeBlanc to a one-year deal and spent a bunch of practice time Tuesday working him into the mix. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville responded with his trademark “we’ll see” when asked if Leblanc would see any ice time against the Nashville Predators, but did go on to tell the media that both Patrick Sharp and Ray Emery are scratches for the game Friday.
Sharp has apparently not fully recovered from the upper-body injury that sidelined him for 24 games earlier this year and Emery is listed as day-to-day, but the Hawks brought up goalie Carter Hutton from the Minors on Thursday and so it’s safe to say Emery’s getting the night off versus Nashville. Coach Q expressed hope both would be available by the time the Hawks leave town for a two-game road trip to Western Canada.
They also announced on Wednesday that they were signed on to play another outdoor game versus the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field on March 1, 2014. The announcement is part of a plan for the NHL to host six outdoor games next season in an attempt to win back fans after this season’s work stoppage alienated millions.
The last time the Hawks played outside, they got beat by the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field in 2009, so the idea of playing in front of 60,000 plus at Soldier Field had to sound tasty.
They also woke up on Thursday morning having clinched the top seed in the Western Conference as a result of the teams beneath them losing. They have six games remaining in the regular season and it appears that .500 hockey will earn them the President’s Trophy and home ice all throughout the postseason.
Friday’s game will mark the first time the Hawks have seen Nashville since their hopes for the postseason were dashed. They should be angry, desperate and looking to play spoiler, although truth be told, the chances the Predators beat the Hawks at home after a 72-hour break are about as good as the Chicago Cubs‘ odds are to win the World Series.