Blackhawks-Rangers Game Preview (Updated):
"One Goal" is the Chicago Blackhawks' motto headed into the 2008-09 season—the "One Goal" being reaching the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2002.
Coming into this season there is quite a buzz around this Chicago squad and they must not let all this high praise get to their head or else Blackhawks fans will be in for a major disappointment.
The Blackhawks will open their season at Madison Square Garden today, facing the 2-0 New York Rangers. The Rangers may still be a little tired from their trip to Prague, where they looked really strong versus the Tampa Bay Lightning.
New York looks to be a force in the Eastern Conference this season, and possibly contend for a cup on the shoulders of Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Markus Naslund and Brandon Dubinsky. They dominated the Prague series behind the ever-impressive Henrik Lundqvist and Scott Gomez, but the Blackhawks will look to solve Lundqvist in the Ranger home opener.
If the Blackhawks want to win, they are going to need to capitalize on the man advantage and use their physicality to wear down the Rangers' forwards. If they can do this, they should be able to win—of course, easier said than done.
The power play will be the key for the Blackhawks in this game, and for the entire season. They have quite a unit this season, which will be anchored by newly-acquired Brian Campbell at the point and a healthy Martin Havlat.
The players that the 'Hawks will also be leaning on tomorrow and the entire season are the young guns Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews—but one guy who might surprise people is Andrew Ladd. Ladd will be playing with Toews and Havlat and should look to get some good chances and will need to capitalize.
They will also be without enforcer/agitator Ben Eager, who was suspended for swinging a stick at Sean Avery. But Colin Fraser should be able to step into his role and be rather effective, as he showed in the preseason.
Cristobal Huet will make his Chicago Blackhawks debut tonight versus the New York Rangers. Huet had a decent preseason, and is the likely candidate for season opener, with Nikolai Khabibulin not playing in the single preseason game.
Huet was 1-1-1 versus the Rangers last season, with 62 saves on 73 shots for a 84-percent save percentage. Hopefully he will fair a little better today versus the high-powered New York Rangers offense.
Welcome back, Chicago Blackhawks fans—it should be quite a year.
Likely line combinations for the Blackhawks (Updated):