Jan Rutta

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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.

Fantasy adds and drops: Anthony Mantha is off to a good start

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The fine folks at Pro Hockey Talk will start doing their best to help you win your fantasy hockey leagues.

The “fantasy adds and drops” column will aim to aid fantasy hockey general managers make tough decisions when it comes to picking up players that are available in the majority of leagues and dropping players that have performed below expectations.

We’ll be using Yahoo! Sports fantasy data as the base for this column.

Here’s a list of players that are all owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues that I’d consider picking up this week:

Anthony Mantha-LW/RW-Detroit Red Wings (owned in 49 percent of leagues)

Mantha has picked up seven points in five games this season. He’s been held off the scoresheet in two of five games, but he’s made up for it by recording two three-point games already. Mantha is averaging over two minutes of ice time per game on the power play.

–Jesper Bratt-LW/RW-New Jersey Devils (owned in 41 percent of leagues)

Bratt was arguably the biggest surprise in the league during the first week of the regular season. No expected this former sixth-round pick to score six points in his first three games, but that’s exactly what happened. In his last two games, he’s failed to record a point, and that’s a little concerning.

Ryan Hartman-LW-Chicago Blackhawks (owned in 35 percent of leagues)

Hartman has eight points in five games so far this season, but keep in mind that five of those points came in one game. His offensive production will definitely dry up, but his ability to rack up penalty minutes make him an intriguing addition in leagues that award point for PIM.

Mikko Rantanen-LW/RW/-Colorado Avalanche (owned in 20 percent of leagues)

The 10th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft is off to a good start this season, as he has one goal and four assists in six games. He’s played over 17:30 in three of his last four contests, which means the Avalanche coaching staff believe they can rely on him. He needs to be owned in a lot of dynasty leagues, too.

[More Fantasy: Check out RotoWorld’s weekly Waiver Wired column]

Sven Andrighetto-LW/RW-Colorado Avalanche (owned in 12 percent of leagues)

Avalanche GM Joe Sakic has been criticized for a lot of the moves he’s made, but getting Andrighetto from Montreal for Andreas Martinsen was one of his best. Andrighetto is an undersized, speedy forward with offensive ability. He’s up to six points in six games already this season. He won’t continue on a point-per-game pace, but he’s good enough to a productive NHLer. I’d rather have Andrighetto than Nail Yakupov on my fantasy team.

Jan Rutta-D-Chicago Blackhawks (owned in 29 percent of leagues)

Rutta’s NHL career is off to a fantastic start. He’s accumulated two goals, two assists, a plus-6 rating and six penalty minutes in six contests. The 27-year-old rookie has averaged 18:59 of ice time, which isn’t insignificant for a first-year blue liner.

Connor Hellebuyck-G-Winnipeg Jets (owned in 47 percent of leagues)

The goaltending picture in Winnipeg wasn’t exactly clear going into the season. Hellebuyck was supposed to be the goalie of the future, while Steve Mason was going to be the short-term solution. Well, the future appears to be now. Hellebuyck has done well for the Jets and although Mason isn’t out of the picture, the youngster will be the go-to option for now.

[Fantasy Podcast: RotoWorld on Ovechkin’s hot start]

Here are a list of players that are owned in more than 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues that could be dropped:

Milan Lucic-LW-Edmonton Oilers (owned in 76 percent of leagues)

At this point, most hockey fans know what Lucic brings to the table. He’s a tough customer that can chip in offensively every so often. His offensive numbers would be better if he’d be lining up with Connor McDavid, but he’s not. So unless you’re getting points for penalty minutes, you can drop Lucic in most leagues.

Andre Burakovsky-LW/RW-Washington Capitals (owned in 63 percent of leagues)

Burakovsky tends to get off to slow starts, and that’s been the case this season. Some Caps players have been filling up the net, but he hasn’t been one of them. He has two assists in six games so far this season.

Robin Lehner-G-Buffalo Sabres (owned in 63 percent of leagues)

Many expected the Sabres to be one of the more improved teams in the NHL this season, but they’ve disappointed so far. The disappointment doesn’t all fall on Lehner’s shoulders though. Unfortunately, when a team doesn’t win, it impacts their goalie’s fantasy value.

Jakob Silfverberg-RW-Anaheim Ducks (owned in 58 percent of leagues)

It’s been a disappointing start to the season for the Ducks forward, who has just one assist in six games. He’ll get his offensive totals up at some point, but he’s still never hit the 50-point mark in his career, so there’s a cap to his upside.

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Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS:

PHT Power Rankings: Making sense of the early standings

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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.

Report: Blackhawks sign Franson to PTO

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Two years ago, Cody Franson didn’t get a contract signed until Sept. 10,  finally inking a deal with the Buffalo Sabres.

On Thursday, with the summer once again almost completely over and one week remaining until training camps open up, the 30-year-old defenseman signed a professional tryout with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, which added that Franson turned down offers from other clubs in favor of this opportunity with the Blackhawks.

Playing on a two-year deal worth a total of $6.65 million for the Sabres, Franson had three goals and 19 points in Buffalo last season. He had 17 points the previous season.

With the losses of Brian Campbell, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Johnny Oduya, there has been significant change to the Blackhawks blue line throughout this offseason.

That said, there will be competition for spots on defense.

Prospect Gustav Forsling looks to maintain a full-time position on the roster after impressing during camp and splitting his time last season between the NHL and the minors. Same goes for Jan Rutta, who has spent the last few years playing professionally in the Czech Republic before he made the decision to come to North America.  He signed with Chicago in June.