For the Chicago Blackhawks, it's coming down to decision time. The team must trim their current roster to 23 players before heading West to face the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Who will be making that trip for the banner-raising in Los Angeles? Right now, most of the spots on the 'Hawks' roster have been set. Barring trades or injury, there are but a few spots in question.
Coach Joel Quenneville seems to be leaning toward a full 23-man roster based on recent sessions with the media. For that reason, I believe that Chicago is going to start the season carrying 14 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies. Let's see how things stand as the final decisions are made.
Locks: Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Dave Bolland, Viktor Stalberg, Daniel Carcillo, Jamal Mayers, Bryan Bickell.
That leaves three and possibly four openings for the following players: Michael Frolik, Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw, Brandon Bollig, Jimmy Hayes, Brandon Pirri and Brandon Saad.
Who stays? I think Frolik makes the roster. From there, it could be interesting.
Kruger has been out of action for a couple of days with the flu, or else he moves into the lock list. It isn't a stretch to think that the 'Hawks will keep Pirri in town and send him to Rockford a few days into the season.
Shaw and Bollig could fill out the forward spots, leaving Hayes and Saad on the outside looking in. Pirri may also wind up in an IceHogs sweater once Kruger is back to 100 percent.
Injured Reserve: Rostislav Olesz will likely wind up here until he's healthy enough for the 'Hawks to assign somewhere.
Locks: Keith Seabrook (Of course I mean Brent Seabrook. I'm so used to listing them as Keith and Seabrook that I've done this several times!). Duncan Keith, Johnny Oduya, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Nick Leddy, Michal Rozsival and Sheldon Brookbank.
I think the 'Hawks go with this group, returning Ryan Stanton to Rockford and putting Steve Montador on the IR as he continues to experience concussion issues.
With the veterans available to handle the blue line, I can't see the 'Hawks carrying an eighth defender. If they go with that 23rd player, it makes sense to hold on to another forward.
Not much drama here. Corey Crawford and Ray Emery are the tandem. All that is up for discussion is how much playing time Emery is going to receive. That hinges on how Crawford comes out in what is his third professional season.
My money is on Stanton, Hayes and Saad being assigned back to Rockford in time for them to take part in the IceHogs' game Friday night. Like last season, Pirri may survive the opening weekend before going down.
Decisions are going to be made soon by Quenneville and GM Stan Bowman. I will weigh in on the final roster once management reveals its hand.