Connor Murphy

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Blackhawks scratch Connor Murphy versus Habs

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The Chicago Blackhawks play the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday, and they will not have Connor Murphy in the lineup.

According to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times, Murphy is a healthy scratch for this game. He’s appeared in three games for the Blackhawks, his new team, this season, averaging just over 16 minutes per night, which is below his career average of 18:44.

This summer, the Blackhawks acquired the 24-year-old Murphy from the Arizona Coyotes but had to part with veteran blue liner Niklas Hjalmarsson, a key member of the organization’s three Stanley Cup wins, as part of the deal. That’s a significant move for Chicago.

Murphy, a right-shooting blue liner, is in the second year of a six-year, $23.1 million contract, which he signed with Arizona. That deal carries an annual cap hit of $3.85 million, so the organization would certainly like him to become a key member of the Blackhawks defense going forward. So far, he has zero points in three games and is sporting a Corsi For rating of 32.7 per cent, per Hockey Reference.

Chicago’s lineup versus the Habs includes Cody Franson, who initially joined the club on a PTO, and right-shooting Czech defenseman Jan Rutta. This isn’t an ideal start for Murphy as a member of the Blackhawks, though it is only the fourth game of the season, too.

WATCH LIVE: Chicago Blackhawks at Montreal Canadiens

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The Chicago Blackhawks (2-0-1) visit the Montreal Canadiens (1-2-0) in the first of two intriguing games on NBCSN on Tuesday. This one kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET, with pregame fun already underway.

While this game is available on NBCSN, you can also check it out online and via the NBC Sports App.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH BLACKHAWKS – HABS

One thing to watch regarding the Blackhawks is a defensive tweak, as Cody Franson is primed to replace Connor Murphy (not Jan Rutta) in the lineup. Wow.

Another thing to keep an eye on: the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports that the Blackhawks continue to struggle with the league’s rule tweaks regarding slashing penalties and face-off infractions.

The Canadiens have their own issues to work on, as head coach Claude Julien stressed getting to the net, according to Matt Cudzinowski of the team website.

“I don’t think the lines themselves are responsible for keeping us from scoring. It’s more about the way we’re playing,” insisted Julien. “We have to find a way to get to the inside. Right now, we’re on the outside. We need to take pucks to the net. Those are things we can change. We scored nine goals against Ottawa with those lines. I had time to study our games so far and that’s what I concluded. We can do better work taking the puck to the net.”

It should be a fun one between two storied NHL franchises.

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This game is followed by what promises to be an emotional first-ever home game for the Vegas Golden Knights as they take on the Arizona Coyotes. For an in-depth preview of both games, check out this post.

Oilers, Golden Knights, Cali teams, and more in PHT’s Pacific preview

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Let’s cut to the chase and wrap up these division previews.

Check out these other previews: Atlantic DivisionCentral Division, Metropolitan DivisionPHT’s picks and predictions.

Anaheim Ducks

Poll/looking to make the leap

Arizona Coyotes

Poll/looking to make the leap

Calgary Flames

Poll/looking to make the leap

Edmonton Oilers

Poll/looking to make the leap

Los Angeles Kings

Poll/looking to make the leap

San Jose Sharks

Poll/looking to make the leap

Vancouver Canucks

Poll/looking to make the leap

Vegas Golden Kngihts

Poll/looking to make the leap

PHT’s Central Division preview: Blackhawks, Wild, Predators, and more

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For ages, it felt like the Central Division was the reigning champion as the toughest division in the NHL.

The Metropolitan Division seemed to knock the Central off its perch, right down to the Pittsburgh Penguins beating the Nashville Predators in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Still, much of those stumbles seemed self-imposed, as the Dallas Stars struggled, the Winnipeg Jets disappointed, and the Colorado Avalanche were jaw-droppingly bad.

Let’s take a look at PHT’s material on the Central Division with the 2017-18 season set to begin.

Click here for the Atlantic Division preview.

Click here for PHT’s staff predictions.

Chicago Blackhawks

Poll/looking to make the leap

Colorado Avalanche

Poll/looking to make the leap

Dallas Stars

Poll/looking to make the leap

Minnesota Wild

Poll/looking to make the leap

Speaking of signings, the Wild inked a deal with Daniel Winnik today:

Nashville Predators

Poll/Looking to make the leap

St. Louis Blues

Poll/looking to make the leap

One other Blues note:

Winnipeg Jets

Poll/looking to make the leap

Blackhawks squeeze Franson, DeBrincat, Forsling under salary cap ceiling

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If you’re a team-building nerd, the Chicago Blackhawks’ ongoing rivalry with the NHL’s salary cap is almost as entertaining as their often-blistering on-ice product.

GM Stan Bowman & Co. finalizing their shimmying under the salary cap ceiling with the season set to begin, and these tweaks make things fairly tantalizing.

For one thing, the Blackhawks recalled dazzling young forward Alex DeBrincat and defenseman Gustav Forsling after demoting them entirely for cap reasons. The excitement surrounding DeBrincat, 19, continues to build; now fans get to see how the undersized forward can handle NHL competition. It’s easy to forget that, while his OHL numbers are stellar, they also came in the OHL.

Personally, it’s also heartening to see the occasional PTO turn into a real contract.

Now, Cody Franson seems too worthwhile to need to go through the song and dance of a tryout, but still. The Blackhawks can sorely use the veteran blueline presence that Franson, 30, may very well provide.

Franson may not be the 30-point man he once was with the Maple Leafs any longer, but it’s clear that he’s earned his status as a subtle analytics darling. This HERO chart makes you wonder if the Blackhawks have pulled off another steal.

via Dom Galamini

Franson could be very helpful if, say, Connor Murphy really struggles. It’s reportedly a one-year, $1 million deal for Franson.

There’s still some uncertainty for a Blackhawks team that’s become a chic choice to regret. Final moves like Wednesday’s could keep the train on the tracks.