Blackhawks Projected Lines & Pairings Headed Into 2022-23

The preseason is in the books for the Chicago Blackhawks. Their exhibition record was a dismal 1-5-0, including three contests where they were shut out in the scoring department. They were also outscored 22-6. Ouch! Considering this underwhelming performance, it’s hard to get excited about the regular season. But the current opening night roster was announced on Monday, and like it or not, things will count this Wednesday when the Blackhawks face the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Colorado Avalanche.

Related – Blackhawks Projected Lines & Pairings Headed Into Training Camp

When training camp started, I gave my projections for the forward lines and the defensive pairings based on what we knew then, and from the offseason. Many things have since changed, and we’ve also gotten an idea of the lineups the coaching staff has been experimenting with. That being said, let’s dive into the combinations we’re most likely to see when the puck drops on Wednesday, as well as some projections for the future.

Blackhawks Projected & Recent Preseason Lineups

These are the combinations I predicted before training camp opened. But we already know Lukas Reichel will start the 2022-23 campaign with the Rockford IceHogs, Boris Katchouk is on injured reserve with a sprained left ankle, Riley Stillman has been traded, Caleb Jones is questionable due to shoulder soreness (currently on injured reserve), and Ian Mitchell is dealing with a wrist injury he sustained before the preseason began. I’ve accordingly crossed them out, at least for the purposes of the opening night lineup. I’ll discuss later how some of them could factor in moving forward.  

Max Domi – Lukas Reichel – Patrick Kane

Andreas Athanasiou – Jonathan Toews – Tyler Johnson

Philipp Kurashev – Sam Lafferty – Taylor Raddysh

Boris Katchouk – Jujhar Khaira – MacKenzie Entwistle

Alex Vlasic – Seth Jones

Riley Stillman – Connor Murphy

Caleb Jones – Jack Johnson

Extras: (F) Colin Blackwell, (F) Reese Johnson, (D) Ian Mitchell

Here’s the lineup the Blackhawks iced for their last preseason contest against the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 8, with all the starters participating.

T. Johnson – Toews – Kane

Kurashev – Domi – Raddysh

Athanasiou – Lafferty – Khaira

Blackwell – Entwistle – Buddy Robinson

J. Johnson – S. Jones

Vlasic – Filip Roos

Isaak Phillips – Alec Regula

Buddy Robinson was placed on waivers the next day (he’s since cleared but will stay with the Blackhawks for now), probably due to Jason Dickinson being acquired from the Vancouver Canucks in the Stillman trade. Isaak Phillips was sent back down to Rockford, meaning Murphy (back soreness) is likely to start on opening night. Also, on Monday the Blackhawks claimed defenseman Jarred Tinordi off waivers from the New York Rangers.

Jarred Tinordi New York Rangers
Defenseman Jarred Tinordi is the newest member of the Chicago Blackhawks, claimed off waivers from the New York Rangers on Monday. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Here are the forward lines from the Blackhawks practice in Denver on Monday before their season opener against the Avalanche.

Athanasiou – Domi – Kane

Raddysh – Toews – T. Johnson

Kurashev – Lafferty – Entwistle

Blackwell – Khaira – Robinson (Dickinson not with the team yet)

The defensive pairings were rotating, but Jake McCabe (offseason cervical spine surgery and currently on injured reserve) and Murphy were in full-contact sweaters, while C. Jones was wearing a non-contact sweater.

Related – Blackhawks Sensible to Send Lukas Reichel to AHL

What does this all mean? Let’s dissect it further, starting with the forward lines.

Blackhawks Projected Forward Lines

As you can see from the two forward lineups above, the Blackhawks were experimenting with having Toews and Kane play together. But it looks like now they are back to the original plan from the beginning of the season, with Athanasiou, Domi and Kane together, and Raddysh, Toews and T. Johnson on the same line. With the Blackhawks struggling to find offense this preseason, I like the idea of shaking things up again. These lines might not have had enough time to gel at the beginning.

Patrick Kane Chicago Blackhawks
It appears Patrick Kane will line up with Andreas Athanasiou and Max Domi again for Chicago Blackhawks 2022-23 opening night. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Kurashev, Lafferty and Entwistle is a new combination on the third line. Playing Khaira at center is new as well. Meanwhile, Blackwell has been a mainstay on the fourth line. Dickinson won’t be available due to visa issues for the first few games, but eventually you plug him in for Robinson, with R. Johnson currently as the other extra.

Athanasiou – Domi – Kane

Raddysh – Toews – T. Johnson

Kurashev – Lafferty – Entwistle

Blackwell – Khaira – Dickinson

Extras: R. Johnson, Robinson

With Katchouk out 4-6 weeks, this is the forward roster for now. When he returns, Robinson will likely officially be re-assigned to the IceHogs. Now, let’s take a look at the defense.

Blackhawks Projected Defensive Pairings

Since they’ve been together for the last few exhibition games, we’ll stick with J. Johnson and S. Jones as the top pairing. Although I’m not sure it will stay that way. Murphy draws into the lineup, with Vlasic as his partner.

Patrice Bergeron, Connor Murphy
All signs point towards defenseman Connor Murphy being in the lineup on opening night for the Chicago Blackhawks. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Now 30-year-old Tinordi is added to the mix. This is likely so one of the prospects can have more time to develop in Rockford. I see Roos as the odd man out, and eventually being sent down to Rockford. The bottom pairing is then comprised of Tinordi and Regula.  

J. Johnson – S. Jones

Vlasic – Murphy  

Tinordi – Regula

Extra: Roos

C. Jones is day-to-day, and McCabe is rumored to be available as soon as the Blackhawks first home game on Oct. 21. When these blueliners are ready to return, there will be some further adjustments.

Gail’s Adjustments to the Blackhawks Lines & Pairings

The above is likely what we will see for opening night and the three-game road trip to start out the season for the Blackhawks. But I have some thoughts on tweaks and adjustments we could see moving forward. Let’s start with the forwards.

Forward Adjustments

I’m not sure if I’m sold on Athanasiou on the top line. Sure, he’s really fast, but can he finish? Will he have the correct chemistry with Domi and Kane? For some reason, I’d like to see what Raddysh could do with these two instead.

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Richardson likes the idea of Athanasiou and Lafferty together, but Lafferty is also having to adjust to playing center. What if you gave them Toews as a linemate? I know that puts Lafferty pretty high up in the rotation. But I see him as that Brandon Hagel type of player who can infuse energy into the lineup.

Sam Lafferty Chicago Blackhawks
Sam Lafferty is the type of energy player that could potentially contribute up and down the lineup. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

T. Johnson is solid center that’s good at winning draws; why not utilize that on the third line with the underrated skill of both Kurashev and Khaira? Kurashev offers a smart hockey IQ, and Khaira adds some brawn to the trio. Finally, some combination of Dickinson, Blackwell, Entwistle and R. Johnson can round out the fourth line.  

Raddysh – Domi – Kane

Athanasiou – Toews – Lafferty

Kurashev – T. Johnson – Khaira

Dickinson – Blackwell – Entwistle/R. Johnson

I believe this lineup spreads the wealth evenly, and gives everyone an opportunity to play to their strengths.

Defensive Adjustments

For the purposes of this exercise, let’s consider McCabe and C. Jones as healthy. After all, all signs point to them being back in the lineup sooner rather than later. Vlasic and S. Jones started out the preseason together and seemed to complement each other well. I would revisit that. McCabe and Murphy had their troubles as a pairing last season, but on paper they look like an excellent shutdown duo. New season, potential new results. I would give them another shot. Finally, I would deploy Regula and C. Jones together and see how they fare in a relatively protected role. I also could see the Blackhawks potentially carrying eight defenseman.

Vlasic – S. Jones

McCabe – Murphy

Regula – C. Jones

Extras: J. Johnson, Tinordi

This way, if Vlasic or Regula struggle, or injuries rear their ugly heads again, J. Johnson or Tinordi offer depth and flexibility. But it’s better to have a journeyman veteran sitting as a healthy scratch than a prospect. I further believe Mitchell will receive a fair shot in the lineup once he’s fully healthy again.

Related – Blackhawks News & Rumors: Kane, Toews, Davidson, Stillman

The lines and pairings are constantly being tweaked and adjusted throughout any given season. It will be no different for the Blackhawks this year, especially as they learn and grow together. But the above is a useful outline for what the lineup combinations will be as the 2022-23 season gets under way, as well as some ideas for future adjustments. We’ll just have to wait and see how it all plays out.  

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