Ray Emery will get the start and it will be reunion timeagain when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Florida Panthers at the United Centeron Wednesday night.Its a first-time return to Chicago for a few ex-Blackhawks, includingBrian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky, Kris Versteeg and Jack Skille. Jonathan Toewssaid he caught up with Versteeg and Skille briefly on Thursday night. Buttoday, its back to business for both teams. The Blackhawks are one point outof first in the West and Central, again, and the Panthers are looking to takeover the Southeast Division.Theres some added motivation with some former teammatesand its probably the same for them, too, Toews said. For both teams, theresa lot of motivation in standings. We want to get back to first place andtheyre battling to get to the top of their division. The last couple of gamesare big for both teams going into the break here.The Blackhawks have won four of their last five games andhave gotten points in six straight. The Panthers are 1-2-3 in their last sixgames entering tonights contest.Patrick Kane expects a spirited game.We played in Atlantalast year against a lot of guys on our team the year before, and its almostlike its not a real hockey game, he said. Youre laughing and joking outthere. At the same time you want to beat them, too. Its different, but fun.
The Blackhawks are happy to have Johnny Oduya back in the fold. They just won’t be getting him back on the ice tonight.
Oduya is expected to be here at some point today but will not play when the Blackhawks face the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Blackhawks got Oduya back on Tuesday night, sending Mark McNeill and a conditional fourth-round pick from the 2018 NHL draft to the Dallas Stars.
Coach Joel Quenneville already has designs on re-pairing Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson, who formed a great duo during previous seasons. But that's when Hjalmarsson comes off his upper-body injury; on Tuesday Hjalmarsson was placed on injured reserve, retroactive to Thursday.
It's dependent on Oduya's health, too. The defenseman is coming off a re-aggravated ankle injury that cost him more than a month; he was back in the Stars' lineup on Sunday against the Boston Bruins. Quenneville said the Blackhawks will give Oduya as much time as necessary to be 100 percent healthy.
"We'll see how he is and where he's at," Quenneville said. "We're looking forward to getting him on the ice and making sure, coming off this injury, he's more than ready to go."
As for tonight's game, Scott Darling will get the start. Corey Crawford, coming off an illness, skated again this morning and will serve as the backup against the Penguins.
"I felt way better today," Crawford said. "It was a good practice. Just go with the flow, no rush right now. 'Darls' is playing great so that's always good. I just gotta battle, get the timing back in practice and go from there."
Artem Anisimov, who missed Tuesday's practice, skated this morning and will play tonight.
BLACKHAWKS VS. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Live stream: NBC Sports app
Radio: WGN 720 AM
Nick Schmaltz -Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Tomas Jurco-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa
Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Andrew Desjardins
Duncan Keith-Trevor van Riemsdyk
Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Michal Rozsival
INJURIES/ILLNESS: Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body).
Chris Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-Jake Guentzel
Carl Hagelin-Evgeni Malkin-Patric Hornqvist
Scott Wilson-Nick Bonino-Phil Kessel
Tom Kuhnhackl-Matt Cullen-Eric Fehr
Brian Dumoulin-Ron Hainsey
Cameron Gaunce-Justin Schultz
Ian Cole-Chad Ruhwedel