The Chicago Blackhawks held their second training camp session of the preseason at Fifth Third Arena on Tuesday morning. Brent Seabrook, Carl Soderberg, and Evan Barratt all remained absent, but Swiss forward Pius Suter was able to make his first appearance at camp after being deemed “unfit to participate” on Monday.

With just eight (!!) days until the season opener against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, the Blackhawks elected to conclude Tuesday’s session with a two-period, 50-minute scrimmage to provide the team with a sense of game action. After all, there will not be any exhibition contests before the regular season begins on January 13. Get ready for some sloppy hockey, folks.

While the line combinations and defensive pairings that head coach Jeremy Colliton chose to roll with today should not be read into all that much (it is only the second day of training camp), again, the regular season begins in just over a week, so there is not a whole lot of time to experiment with different combinations. Plus, Colliton has kept his forward groups and defensive pairings largely the same through the first two days, perhaps signifying a pattern that could lead into opening night.

Forward Combos

For the second consecutive day, the Blackhawks had Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, and Patrick Kane skate together on what essentially is their top line. Strome and DeBrincat have obvious chemistry going back to their junior hockey days with the Erie Otters, and they deserve another shot together after both players had disastrous 2019-20 campaigns. If they are not able to bounce back with the greatest American-born player in NHL history by their side, then the Blackhawks have some serious problems to solve in their rebuild.

Kane and Strome (Team Black) hooked up for a goal in the second period of Tuesday’s scrimmage:

Suter joined Andrew Shaw and Dominik Kubalik as the top line for Team Red on Tuesday, and the trio teamed up for a gritty goal to open the scoring:

Shaw, Suter, and Kubalik could slot in as the Blackhawks’ second line on opening night, but Soderberg, a natural center, figures to be somewhere in the mix as well once he resolves his immigration issues. Although, Colliton appointed Suter as the center of his line on Tuesday rather than Shaw, which may have revealed his intentions once Soderberg, a career 47.7 percent faceoff man, rejoins the team. Colliton added after Tuesday’s scrimmage that it would be “really nice” to have Suter as an option at center this year.

Mattias Janmark, Lucas Wallmark, and Brandon Pirri made up the Hawks’ third line on Tuesday. Janmark and Wallmark both are locks to make the final roster, but Pirri, however, could find himself in Rockford or on the NHL taxi squad to start the season. The Blackhawks’ second-round pick way back in 2009 is now 29 years old and does not exactly fit the rebuild mold that is currently in place.

Regardless of age, though, the Blackhawks are going to need help on offense this season, especially in their defensive-minded bottom-six forward group. Pirri has a shot to play against Tampa on January 13 solely because of his offensive abilities.

Wallmark found Pirri on a two-on-one for a one-time goal in the second period on Tuesday:

Matthew Highmore, David Kampf, and Ryan Carpenter, as they did throughout the entire 2020 postseason, made up the Blackhawks fourth line during Tuesday’s scrimmage. Colliton clearly has trust in this group, and earlier in the week, The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus reported that a source told him the Highmore-Kampf-Carpenter line is their head coach’s “security blanket”. Sounds like a pretty strong chance this trio is together for the Hawks on opening night and beyond.

Defensive Pairings

Once again, the Blackhawks went with Adam Boqvist and Nikita Zadorov, Ian Mitchell and Calvin de Haan, and Duncan Keith and Connor Murphy as their top defensive pairings on Tuesday.

The offensive-minded Boqvist feels like an adequate fit alongside the 6-foot-5 Zadorov, who has not been afraid to throw his weight around so far in camp. General manager Stan Bowman told “Big Z” to expect a top-four role with the Blackhawks going forward, and given the current state of the team, it would only make sense for the 20-year-old Boqvist to be in the same boat.

Murphy and de Haan spent the majority of the 2020 postseason skating as the Hawks’ “shut-down pairing”, but the two did not find much success together, and Colliton appears to be moving on from that experiment. Now, de Haan has been paired with Mitchell, the Blackhawks’ top prospect, during camp so far to try and ease the 21-year-old into professional hockey. With de Haan being known as one of the better defensive defensemen in the league (when healthy), that seems like a smart place for Mitchell to begin his NHL career.

Keith has led the Blackhawks in average time on ice in each of his 15 seasons with the club and will likely do so again in 2021. Murphy has played with Keith in stretches during his three years with Chicago, but this time around feels different. After back-to-back solid seasons, Murphy is now a veteran leader in the locker room and is expected to make the jump to a top-pairing defenseman for the Blackhawks. With a future Hall-of-Famer by his side, Murphy remains confident he can get the job done.

“He’s a Hall of Fame defenseman,” Murphy said. “I don’t know if it gets that much easier than that.”

Norm Maciver Leaves Blackhawks

Lost in the chaos of the second day of training camp was Norm Maciver deciding to leave the Blackhawks front office after over 14 years with the franchise to take on a new role with the Seattle Kraken. Apparently, Maciver had fallen out of Bowman’s inner circle in the past couple of years, which could explain his demotion this offseason from assistant general manager to vice president of player personnel.

“They iced [Maciver] out,” a source told The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus. “They thought he was too negative.”

Maciver, a veteran of over 500 NHL games, will take over for Seattle as their director of player personnel. Hired back in 2006, he was one of the longest-tenured Blackhawks employees and was a vital part of retooling the team for two more Stanley Cups in 2013 and 2015.

Avatar
Born and raised in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Diehard Blackhawks and Cubs fan. Former high school baseball player. Studied Mass Media Communication and Psychology at the University of Missouri.