A longstanding criticism of the NHL’s allocating of points in the standings is that overtime points artificially bunch up the standings, allowing teams to remain in the playoff hunt longer than they probably should under the guise of parity. It might be OK to bequeath points to an opposing team from the opposite conference, given that the two teams are not competing for playoff berths, but in divisional games the extra point can make playoff races needlessly hair-raising.
And this season especially, where every game is a divisional game and every point matters, playing bonus hockey is never a good thing. It’s something the Carolina Hurricanes might want to reflect on as they wrap up their series tonight in Chicago, what with three of their previous four games having gone to overtime or a shootout, and the Blackhawks leading the league with four overtime-loss points in just 11 games so far - while lurking just two points behind the Hurricanes (and three out of the division lead).
For the first time this season, the Hurricanes should have an unchanged lineup in tonight’s game. Jesper Fast has been removed from the COVID protocol list, but similar to the players who returned to the lineup on Tuesday Fast will need a few days of practice before he is ready to take the ice. Everyone else is healthy, no one is on the COVID list, and the Canes are looking at two days off after this game. It’s one that they should win, but as we saw on Tuesday, taking the Blackhawks lightly (especially on the penalty kill) is done at a team’s own risk.
Here’s how the Canes will look in tonight’s matchup:
Andrei Svechnikov - Sebastian Aho - Brock McGinn
Nino Niederreiter - Vincent Trocheck - Martin Necas
Warren Foegele - Jordan Staal - Teuvo Teravainen
Ryan Dzingel - Morgan Geekie - Jordan Martinook
Jaccob Slavin - Dougie Hamilton
Brady Skjei - Brett Pesce
Jake Gardiner - Haydn Fleury
Injuries and Scratches: Max McCormick (IR upper body), Petr Mrazek (upper body), Jesper Fast (COVID recovery)
Taxi Squad: Steven Lorentz, Jake Bean, Joakim Ryan, Antoine Bibeau
Now over to the Blackhawks, where the team had an optional practice this morning and afterwards we expected to hear something about their lineup, as per standard procedure.
Colliton won't say who the Blackhawks' lineup is for tonight.— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) February 4, 2021
Clearly, Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton doesn’t care a lick about the fact that we’re trying to put a lineup post together over here.
What we can take from this morning is that Malcolm Subban seems likely to get the start in goal, and Kevin Lankinen is apparently going to be given the day off; Collin Delia will back up Subban tonight. None of the Blackhawks players in the COVID protocol were present this morning, which means the wait goes on for the Lucas Wallmark reunion.
Here’s how the Blackhawks lined up in Wednesday’s practice; who knows if this is what it will look like tonight, but it’s the best we can do:
Mattias Janmark - Philipp Kurashev - Patrick Kane
Alex DeBrincat - Dylan Strome - Dominik Kubalik
Brandon Hagel - Carl Soderberg - Andrew Shaw
Matthew Highmore - David Kampf - Pius Suter
Duncan Keith - Ian Mitchell
Calvin de Haan - Connor Murphy
Nikita Zadorov - Nicolas Beaudin
Injuries and Scratches: Lucas Wallmark (COVID protocol), Adam Boqvist (COVID protocol), Ryan Carpenter (COVID protocol), Kevin Lankinen (healthy), Lucas Carlsson (healthy), Brent Seabrook (IR back), Zack Smith (IR back), Kirby Dach (LTIR wrist), Jonathan Toews (LTIR undisclosed), Alex Nylander (LTIR knee)
Taxi Squad: Wyatt Kalynuk, Michal Teply, Mackenzie Entwistle, Brandon Pirri, Anton Lindholm
Referees: Tom Chmielewski #18, Tim Peel #20
Linesmen: Brad Kovachik #71, Tony Sericolo #84