DENVER – As has been the case for a few years now, there are some familiar faces and some new ones as the Blackhawks take the ice to begin the 2021-2022 seasons.
After a year away, captain Jonathan Toews is back on the ice with the team as he’s ready to go after getting himself in game shape during training camp along with the preseason. Patrick Kane returns hoping to put together a strong full season of play as he continues to deal with a nagging injury from the 2020 Edmonton bubble postseason.
But there are other players from the team’s famed 2010s core that are now gone, with Duncan Keith being traded away while Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw have retired. A few new faces, including young players and veterans added through trades, make up a group that continues to evolve in a new era of the franchise.
This group will be on display for the first time this season on Wednesday night as the Blackhawks open the 2021-2022 season against the Avalanche at 9 PM on TNT. It will be the first of three games on the road to open the campaign, starting with Colorado then continuing with a game against the Devils Friday and the Penguins on Saturday.
That trio includes two division winners from the shortened 2021 season that will test this new Blackhawks group immediately. It will also help in the development of the group that is looking to set up effective lineups at the start of the campaign.
“We need to reach a level of consistency to compete, to give ourselves the chance to win,” said head coach Jeremy Colliton. “So as a player, if you know that there’s competition for your role or your spot, it helps to hold yourself accountable, and obviously we’ve got to do that too with the ice time; who plays and who doesn’t.”
The quest for Colliton is to guide the team to the playoffs in a full regular season for the first time in his tenure and the first since 2017 for the franchise. In 2020, the Blackhawks qualified for the 12-team Edmonton bubble then upset the Oilers to get in the traditional Stanley Cup Playoffs where they lost to the Golden Knights.
Two new veteran additions will try to make that happen in their first seasons with the franchise: Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and defenseman Seth Jones.
“Anytime you start the season you want to start off on the right foot with a win and I know we’ve got a road trip here that’s going to be important, I think, for the start of our season,” said Jones of the start of the season. “Obviously Colorado is a great team; they’re favorites in a lot of people’s minds. But I like our chances, I love our team, so hopefully, we can come in and play hard.”
The first of 82 chances to do so is Wednesday night.