Gustav Forsling

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PROJECTED LINES

Minnesota Wild

Forwards

Tyler EnnisEric StaalZach Parise

Jason ZuckerMikko KoivuJoel Eriksson Ek

Chris StewartCharlie CoyleMikael Granlund

Marcus FolignoMatt CullenDaniel Winnik

Defense

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon

Jonas BrodinMathew Dumba

Mike ReillyNate Prosser

Starting Goalie: Devan Dubnyk

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Chicago Blackhawks

Forwards

Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsVinnie Hinostroza

Ryan HartmanNick SchmaltzPatrick Kane

Patrick Sharp – David Kampf – Alex DeBrincat

Lance BoumaTommy Wingels

Defense

Duncan KeithJordan Oesterle

Gustav ForslingJan Rutta

Michal KempnyConnor Murphy

Brent Seabrook

Staring Goalie: Anton Forsberg

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Blackhawks defense drama: Brent Seabrook scratched

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On Monday, the Chicago Blackhawks put Cody Franson (fancy stats darling) on waivers. A day later, it was revealed that (frequent analytics punching bag) Brent Seabrook will be … a healthy scratch.

Wow.

There’s no denying that Seabrook, 32, has struggled recently. In some circles, he’s been a target of criticism for quite some time, with middling possession stats making for a toxic mix alongside his problematic contract.

Even so, it’s startling to see it actually happen in 2017-18, with his $6.875 million cap hit running through (gulp) 2023-24. For context, that contract runs one season beyond those of Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Patrick Kane, who all see their deals expire after 2022-23.

It’s all a lot to take in for a Blackhawks team that will need to battle to make the playoffs, and one that seems to be suffering from some stark salary cap realities.

“I want to get back to being more consistent,” Seabrook said after learning about being scratched, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times. “I think I’ve had good stretches and bad stretches.”

With Franson headed to the AHL – at least for now, if a trade isn’t coming – after clearing waivers, the Blackhawks’ already-suspect defense now seems to be in disarray. Joel Quenneville might roll with a combination of Keith, Jan Rutta, Gustav Forsling, Jordan Oesterle, Michal Kempny, and Connor Murphy. (Erik Gustafsson is also available.)

Lazerus notes that Rutta, Forsling, Oesterle, Kempny, and Murphy combine for about $7.1M in cap space, barely eclipsing Seabrook’s $6.875M. That’s … not really good for anyone, really.

Now, it’s important to realize that Coach Q indicates that Seabrook may not spend much time as a healthy scratch. That’s fair, because if you can manage to put aside Seabrook’s play relative to his contract, the Blackhawks should probably use him in some fashion.

With back-to-back games (at Ottawa tonight, against the Wild in Chicago tomorrow), this could very well be a short break for Seabrook.

If this works out, it could be a wake-up call to the team as a whole, not just a fading veteran who has plenty of moments that should stand out to Blackhawks fans. He scored big goals, often in overtime, in helping the Blackhawks win three Stanley Cups.

Still, it’s one of those moments that makes sense in theory but is startling in reality.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: Subban showdown, Forsling be with you

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Player of the Night: Artemi Panarin, Columbus Blue Jackets

PHT already gave Panarin (and his five primary assists) the spotlight in the form of a full post, so check that out here. His performance demands a repeat mention as the best of the night, nonetheless.

Runner-up: Gustav Forsling, Chicago Blackhawks

Forsling, 21, grabbed points in all three of Chicago’s goals as the Blackhawks imposed their will on the Sabres (51 shots on goal) in a 3-2 overtime win. Forsling scored the overtime game-clincher, with a simple-solid bit of good work:

Subban vs. Subban, plus Neal’s return to Nashville

The Golden Knights’ eventual shootout win against the Predators was brimming with storylines, particularly for a fairly run-of-the-mill Friday in early December, when the “new car smell” is starting to wear off an NHL season.

(You know, when there isn’t a lockout.)

Anyway, you’d have to give Malcolm Subban the edge in this one, as he really had a strong game in helping his team beat P.K. Subban and the Predators. Malcolm even set a new career-high:

Curiously, Predators coach Peter Laviolette decided *not* to use P.K. against his brother, even though the shootout went six rounds and Malcolm was not beaten, something The Score noted tonight.

The other fun narrative was James Neal‘s return to Nashville after being one of the most prominent expansion draft losses, as Golden Knights GM George McPhee was driving a hard bargain. To little surprise, what with the departure not being Neal’s fault, he was given a warm reception.

Neal then scored a very, well, James Neal goal:

Amusingly, Calle Jarnkrok answered with a goal of his own about a minute later. As you may remember, Jarnkrok was one of the key players Nashville protected instead of Neal. You have to love when sports stories come together like that, right?

(Lavi shakes his head no, makes it a point not to put P.K. against Malcolm Subban, ever.)

Highlight of the Night

Here’s your latest reminder that Jack Eichel is awesome and doesn’t deserve the bulk of the blame for Buffalo’s bumbling. Also, I’m a big sucker for a great moment where a player shows skill keep the puck in the zone, so this one puts many checkmarks in many boxes, personally:

More Factoids

More on Subban vs. Subban:

And a bonus bit about Artemi Panarin, beyond the Blue Jackets-specific stuff:

Scores

Blue Jackets 5, Devils 3
Capitals 4, Rangers 2
Golden Knights 4, Predators 3 (SO)
Blackhawks 3, Sabres 2 (OT)
Wild 3, Ducks 2 (OT)

Bonus highlight

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blackhawks tweaks include putting DeBrincat with Toews

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Even in October, it’s tough to deny just how long an 82-game NHL season can be. (Especially when you check back in January.)

Sometimes you need to shake things up, and that’s especially true when the results aren’t coming. The Chicago Blackhawks’ offense has been a little hit-or-miss lately, so as NBC Sports Chicago’s Tracey Myers and others report, Joel Quenneville is getting out the fabled line blender.

As you can see from this eye-friendly set of lines via Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times, this marks an interesting opportunity for Alex DeBrincat, while Ryan Hartman gets bumped down to the fourth line:

(The defense is also seeing tweaks, as Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith won’t be attached at the hip for a while. Keith looks primed to roll with Jan Rutta while Seabrook’s partner is Gustav Forsling.)

It’s also intriguing that, despite having some success with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad, Richard Panik gets a look with Patrick Kane. But it’s especially fascinating to ponder how pint-sized wonder DeBrincat could fare with Toews and Saad.

If talk of line blenders didn’t make it clear enough, it’s unclear how long this might last.

“We’re just looking for some change, some excitement,” Quenneville said, according to Lazerus.

Fantasy hockey types might cringe after hopping on the Hartman bandwagon. The 23-year-old has nine points in 10 games, although half of those points came when the Blackhawks rampaged against the Pittsburgh Penguins to start the season with a 10-1 win. Hartman hasn’t generated a point in three straight games and only has a goal in his past five.

DeBrincat has been awfully quiet in his own right, too, as he adjusts to the NHL game. So we’ll see if these changes stick for a while; even if they do, these forwards probably shouldn’t rely too much on a specific combination, although coaches do tend to prefer at least keeping certain pairings together these days.

The Blackhawks host the Predators on Friday and face the Avalanche in Colorado on Saturday, so getting a little burst from these tweaks could be helpful during a back-to-back set.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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.