Chicago Blackhawks: Who Will Fill In While Brad Mills Is Out?
Today was a relatively quiet day for the Chicago Blackhawks, but a few key pieces are worth noting involving personnel changes that will affect the Blackhawks back-to-back games, the first of which is tomorrow on the road against the Winnipeg Jets.
Many familiar faces will be waiting in Winnipeg, including 2010 Stanley Cup Champions Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd, as well as 2013 Stanley Cup Champion Michael Frolik. That being said, the Jets 26th-best (11.1 percent) Power Play unit ranks among the worst in the NHL, but will face a Blackhawks team that is missing a rather important piece.
Not on the ice today was current power play fill-in Brad Mills, who was been diagnosed with a day-to-day lower-body injury and will not be making the trip with the team up to Winnipeg. Replacing him on the ice will be Ben Smith, and while that is an offensive improvement, Mills will not be able to continue to build chemistry with Marcus Kruger.
Also not at practice was Michal Handzus, who himself is recovering from an upper-body injury and is close to returning to skating, according to coach Joel Quenneville. Handzus was the skater before Mills paired up with Kruger on the power play, and thanks to the play of Brandon Pirri on the second line, Handzus may once again see PK time when he is healthy enough to return.
Once again, the first one out on the ice for the Blackhawks was backup goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin. Marred by another bad start, and with the Blackhawks playing four games (two home, two away) to start November, Khabibulin will likely be back in net. If he cannot improve rather impressively and build any confidence, expect his next start to be one of his last.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486.