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The Chicago Blackhawks headed to the Land of 10,000 Lakes for a Saturday night preseason tilt with the Minnesota Wild. Both teams dressed very few of their NHL regulars. The Blackhawks were led by veterans like Tyler Johnson and Taylor Raddysh, with Arvid Soderblom getting all 60 minutes in net.
MacKenzie Entwistle got the Blackhawks on the board early in the first period, but the Wild answered with goals from Ryan O’Rourke and Adam Beckman before the end of the first period. The second period provided no scoring but did give us a scary moment. Samiel Savioe lost an edge and went feet-first into the boards. He immediately grabbed his leg and needed to be stretchered off the ice. Tyler Johnson forced overtime with just over a minute left in regulation, but extra time lasted only 21 seconds before Connor Dewar slung a wrist shot past Arvid Söderblom.
The Blackhawks are right back at it tomorrow night as they travel to the Detroit Red Wings for their third of six preseason games.
Greg: Keeping Tabs on the Bubble Forwards
Last season, Mackenzie Entwistle, Colin Blackwell, Boris Katchouk, and Reese Johnson had regular spots on the NHL roster last season. After a busy offseason, all four of these players are fighting to make the team out of training camp. It sure appears that Connor Bedard, Taylor Hall, Ryan Donato, Andreas Athanasiou, Lukas Reichel, Phillip Kurashev, Corey Perry, Jason Dickson, Nick Foligno, Tyler Johnson, and Taylor Raddysh have locked themselves into position. Cole Guttman has been between Tyler Johnson and Raddysh all camp long, so it’s his spot to lose.
That gives you 12 forwards, with the four mainstays from last season on the outside, looking in. The team can have up to 23 players on the roster at a time, so three extra skaters. With the Blackhawks kicking off the season with five straight road games, it is likely they will take two extra forwards on the road with them. That means, at minimum, two of these players will start the year in Rockford or possibly with another organization.
After Friday’s practice, I asked head coach Luke Richardson if those last roster spots are going to come down to a guy who can play a specific role or the guy who is playing the best overall hockey.
“A little bit of both,” he answered. “We have to see how everybody looks, and we’re going to try to move everybody around. Once we get to games two and three, we’ll get different looks with different combinations up front. They’ve been in that position before, so that’s a good thing. Guys are working hard in practice and chomping at the bit to get into a game. Now that we’ve got the games going, I think all that will sort itself out. We know we’re going to need a mix; you can’t just have all the same. So, that plays into it. But also, who plays the best and earns it. So, it will be a combination of both when it pans out at the end.”
Blackwell has yet to skate due to an injury, so he is likely out of the equation. Reese Johnson played in Thursday’s preseason opener against St. Louis and was back in the lineup tonight. Entwistle and Katchouk were on the same line together, along with Joey Anderson.
Entwistle beat Filip Gustavsson just 1:36 into the game, with Katchouk picking up the primary assist.
Katchouk grabbed another point with the secondary assist on the game-tying goal. He finished with two hits and a plus-2. Entwistle had a hit to go along with his shot and goal.
Reese Johnson had another unspectacular night. His line was victimized on the Beckman goal in the second period, as he and his linemates had trouble clearing the defensive zone all game long. After two preseason games, I don’t see a scenario where he isn’t starting the regular season in Rockford.
Jay: Kevin Korchinski’s Tough Night
After Thursday night’s 2-1 overtime win over the Blues, Blackhawks defenseman Kevin Korchinski was voted our Fourth Star of the Game. Saturday night in Minnesota, he had a game to forget. This is the life of an NHL prospect. Thrive. Struggle. Everything in between. There were several examples of Korchinski not being strong enough on the check or on his stick on Saturday. On the Wild’s second goal, which came as a result of a brutal turnover from Anders Bjork, Korchinski was outworked along the goal line by Sammy Walker. Korchinski was neither physical enough on the body nor strong enough on his stick to take the puck away. Walker won the puck and centered it to Adam Beckman, who lifted it past Söderblom.
Later, Steven Fogarty drove the net on Korchinski and simply out-skilled him. Nothing came of the moment, but Korchinski got beaten pretty badly. We are nitpicking and looking more deeply at these prospects than we typically would, but every moment of this preseason will influence the Blackhawks’ decision on where to start Korchinski this season. Due to the NHL-CHL agreement, Rockford is not an option for Korchinski. It’s either the Blackhawks or the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. Nothing about tonight’s game should do anything to hurt Korchinski’s chances of beginning the season in Chicago. These are learning experiences and were totally expected by the Hawks coaching staff. They might even be happy about the chance to give Korchinski these moments to look at and adjust before the games count for anything. Korchinski finished the game with a -1 rating, four shots on goal, two more shot attempts, a blocked shot, and a team-leading 22:26 of ice time. Overall, his game was solid, but we can’t ignore the glaring mistakes he made.
Mario: Samuel Savoie Injured
A prospect making his way up the ladder in the organization has been 2022 third-round pick Savoie. Unfortunately, his training camp will be cut short as he left tonight’s game in the second period after an ugly lower-body injury. Savoie lost his footing going after a puck along the near boards and went legs-first into them. He grabbed the back of his right leg immediately, and you could hear on the Wild broadcast the screams from the Gatineau Olympique forward in pain. It was not a good scene.
Savoie was making his 2023 preseason debut, skated nine minutes of ice time, and recorded one hit before his game and training camp were cut short. He’s quickly becoming a fan-favorite in the prospect group because of his pesky style of play and quick wit in the media. We don’t know the extent of the injury he suffered tonight, but hopefully, it doesn’t take him off the ice for too much time during the 2023-24 QMJHL season.
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