Scott Darling starts, Marian Hossa 'likely' in as Blackhawks seek to clinch playoff berth

Scott Darling starts, Marian Hossa 'likely' in as Blackhawks seek to clinch playoff berth

Scott Darling will start and Marian Hossa is expected to be back in the lineup when the Blackhawks face the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night.

Per the NHL, there are a couple of ways the Blackhawks could clinch a playoff spot tonight:

  • If they beat the Avalanche in regulation or overtime and the Los Angeles Kings lose to the Calgary Flames in any fashion or beat the Flames in a shootout. Or,
  • if they beat the Avalanche in a shootout and the Kings lose to the Flames in any way. Or,
  • if they get one point against the Avalanche and the Kings lose to the Flames in regulation.

Hossa missed Saturday night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs with a lower-body injury but coach Joel Quenneville said Hossa is “likely” to play vs. the Avalanche. The last time the Blackhawks had a back-to-back Quenneville rested Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya, both of whom were coming off recent injuries. Quenneville said, “maybe one of them might not play” vs. the Avalanche. It seems it’s more likely to be a rest night for Oduya.

The Blackhawks have won four in a row and, entering Sunday night’s games, hold a five-point lead over the Minnesota Wild, who are playing the Winnipeg Jets. Although the Wild have lost four games in a row – a season high for them – Quenneville isn’t expecting that skid to last.

“I see them finding a way to get some points here,” he said. “I know everyone has good and bad streaks. We’ve seen a streaky year from a lot of teams that had excellent runs and they had a big run. We still think they’re a very dangerous team, capable of winning every single night, and [have] real balance to their lineup. Don’t get comfortable being in the position we’re in. We were in the position they’re [now] in earlier in the year and they were in the position we’re in today, so let’s just keep trying to push ahead.”

The Avalanche have lost three of four, including a 5-1 defeat to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.

Broadcast information:

Time: 6 p.m.

TV: WGN

Radio: WGN 720 AM

Chicago Blackhawks (projected)

Forward lines

John Hayden-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik

Artemi Panarin-Nick Schmaltz-Patrick Kane

Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Marian Hossa

Andrew Desjardins-Marcus Kruger-Jordin Tootoo

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson

Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook

Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Scott Darling

Injuries/illness: Artem Anisimov (left leg)

 

Colorado Avalanche (projected)

Forward lines

Gabriel Landeskog-Matt Duchene-Rene Bourque

Sven Andrighetto-Nathan Mackinnon-Mikko Rantanen

John Mitchell-Carl Soderberg-Blake Comeau

Mikhail Grigorenko-JT Compher-Joe Colborne

Defensive Pairs

Erik Johnson-Mark Barberio

Fedor Tyutin-Tyson Barrie

Anton Lindholm-Francois Beauchemin

Goaltender

Calvin Pickard

Injuries/illness:: Semyon Varlamov (hip), Nikita Zadorov (broken ankle), Matt Nieto (knee)

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.