ST. LOUIS – For some of the top Chicago Blackhawks, it’s a chance to rest. For some of the Rockford IceHogs, it’s a one-game opportunity to show what they’ve got.
At least seven Blackhawks will sit tonight, and goaltender Carter Hutton will make his NHL debut when the St. Louis Blues host the Blackhawks at Scottrade Center. For the Blackhawks, it’s a chance to give their top players a much-needed rest before the playoffs begin. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson are among those who did not travel to St. Louis.
Defenseman Brent Seabrook is playing tonight.
The Blackhawks have held out a guy here and there in games down the stretch, but is doing it en masse in the final regular-season game. It works for several reasons, the main one being the Blackhawks have absolutely nothing at stake in this game. It’s a road game, and the Blues are a physical, punishing team. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told St. Louis reporters this morning it was the smart move.
“They’re not going to take a risk. There’s nothing at stake for them. What they get is a free look,” he said. “They get a free look at their players for the playoffs, they get a free look at their players whether they can keep up with the pace in an important game for another team.”
The Blackhawks played their regular roster Friday night, when the Blackhawks played their home regular-season finale.
“I think you have an obligation at home to (play the regulars). I don't care if the game is for nothing ... sitting out your best players at home to me would be offensive if I was a fan. But what you do on the road is up to you,” Hitchcock said. “You've got to protect your lineup. What you do at home, without no audience, there ain't no show.”
Meanwhile, several IceHogs, including those who have had their moments with the Blackhawks previously, will play tonight. Hutton, Ben Smith, Brandon Pirri, Jeremy Morin, Jimmy Hayes, Drew LeBlanc and Ryan Stanton are some of the IceHogs slated to play.
“It’s a great opportunity,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It’s a chance for us to see them and they can show us what they can do, because they’re not that far away from helping us.”
As for Hutton, he’ll have quite a test in his NHL debut. Everyone in a Blackhawks uniform will tonight, actually. The Blues are trying to secure home ice, something they can do with a victory.
“It’ll be exciting, a good test for him as well,” Quenneville said of Hutton. “(The Blues are) big, they go to the net hard. Let’s make sure we’re checking well and it’s a priority tonight.”
The final few playoff spots are still undecided in the West, and the Blackhawks will be eyeing the scoreboard throughout tonight.
“We mentioned having a TV on the bench but that might not be (possible),” he said. “But we’ll be watching.”
Dave Bolland (groin) and Ray Emery (lower body) are also not on this trip. Asked if both will be ready for the postseason, Quenneville said, “we’ll see about that.”