Michal Kempny, seven defensemen among the possibilities for Blackhawks in Game 4

Michal Kempny, seven defensemen among the possibilities for Blackhawks in Game 4

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Michal Kempny was in and out of the lineup throughout the regular season. Now, he might be playing in his first career NHL postseason game.

Kempny could be in, and the Blackhawks could go with seven defensemen when they face the Nashville Predators in Game 4 of their first-round series on Thursday night. The Blackhawks trail the Predators 3-0 and are trying to avoid being swept in a postseason series for the first time since 1993.

The Blackhawks' four-line rotation hasn't really been there through the first three games of this postseason, so bulking up on defense is the next option. Regardless of whether or not the Blackhawks go that route, however, coach Joel Quenneville said their puck possession has to be a lot better.

"Our puck decisions or strength in the puck area and relentlessness, when we have it going on all four lines, you're making them defend. But it seems like we're defending a lot more than we're accustomed to," Quenneville said. "We have to find a way to get bigger contributions from each line to get that consistency no matter if we have seven D or four lines."

Kempny played in two of the Blackhawks' final three regular-season games (at Colorado and Anaheim), but his last game prior to that was March 19. Kempny didn't know if he was in the lineup when he talked to the media, but he said that if he is, he'll be ready.

"If I would play, I would be very glad, and I would do my best, put 100 percent into the game," said Kempny through interpreter Igor Alfimov. Kempny added that it's been tough seeing where the Blackhawks are to this point.

"It's not a good feeling especially when you see your team losing, but I believe it's going to change today," he said.

If the Blackhawks go with six defensemen, there's a chance Kempny would be in for Johnny Oduya. Asked if Oduya has to be better, Quenneville once again said it's on everybody to be so, not just one player.

"Individually or collectively, from every single guy there's more. That's what we're going to need," he said. "To be our best we need everyone contributing in their own ways and being their best, and I think everyone has room for improvement."

Catch all the action from Nashville tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com and via the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

Projected lines and defensive pairs

Blackhawks

Forwards

Nick Schmaltz, Jonathan Toews, Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov, Patrick Kane
Dennis Rasmussen, Marcus Kruger, Marian Hossa
Ryan Hartman, Tanner Kero, Jordin Tootoo

Defensemen

Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson
Michal Kempny and Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell and Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries and illness: Michal Rozsival (facial fractures), Andrew Desjardins (lower body)

Predators

Forwards

Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson
Harry Zolnierczyk, Mike Fisher, Austin Watson
Kevin Fiala, Calle Jarnkrok, James Neal
​Pontus Aberg, Colton Sissons, Craig Smith

Defensemen

Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis
​Mattias Ekholm and P.K. Subban
​Yannick Weber and Matt Irwin

Goaltender

Pekka Rinne

Injuries and illness: Colin Wilson (lower body)

Blackhawks agree to terms with Nathan Noel on entry-level contract

Blackhawks agree to terms with Nathan Noel on entry-level contract

The Blackhawks strengthened their organizational depth Thursday, announcing the signing of forward Nathan Noel to a three-year entry-level contract that kicks in next season and runs through the 2019-20 campaign. 

Noel, a fourth-round draft pick (No. 113 overall) in 2016, tied a career high with 24 goals — including six game winners — and added 26 assists for 50 points in 52 games during his fourth regular season with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He was sidelined for a little more than a month in December and January due to an upper-body injury.

The 19-year-old center has raised his game in the postseason, racking up eight goals and 18 assists in 33 games from 2015-17, including six assists in 12 contests so far during the 2017 QMJHL playoffs. Across four years at Saint John, he amassed 208 points (85 goals, 123 assists) in 242 career regular-season games.

Noel is teammates with forward Matthew Highmore, who leads the Sea Dogs in scoring and was signed by the Blackhawks in March to a three-year deal as an undrafted free agent.

Noel is an undersized forward at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, but he's a fast skater with offensive upside. He'll likely start the 2017-18 season in the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs, who desperately needed scoring last year. 

Blackhawks' Nick Schmaltz added to USA's roster for 2017 IIHF World Championship

Blackhawks' Nick Schmaltz added to USA's roster for 2017 IIHF World Championship

Nick Schmaltz will be joining Blackhawks teammate Trevor van Riemsdyk on Team USA at the 2017 IIHF World Championship, the club announced Thursday.

It will be his first career appearance on the U.S. men's national team and third time representing his country in world-championship play, most recently winning a bronze medal at the 2016 World Juniors. He scored two goals and added six assists in seven games during that tournament.

Schmaltz just completed his first professional season with the Blackhawks, where he tallied six goals and 22 assists in 61 games. 

After the year ended, he spoke about the possibility of playing for USA in this tournament and what it would mean to him.

"I think it's a great tournament," Schmaltz said. "You get to play with a lot of great players. Look like a lot of great players are going to the tournament, so it's definitely a big stage. It would be a fun tournament."

The roster now includes 13 forwards, seven defensemen and three goaltenders. Among the other NHLers going for the Americans: Danny DeKeyser, Noah Hanifin, Jimmy Howard, Dylan Larkin, Anders Lee, Charlie McAvoy, Connor Murphy, Brock Nelson and Jacob Trouba.

Blackhawks forwards Marcus Kruger (Sweden) and Artemi Panarin (Russia) will also compete in the tournament, which begins May 5 and runs until May 21 in Cologne, Germany and Paris, France.