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Throughout the 2011 preseason, the chicagoblackhawks.com will preview each game with players to watch, notes and more.
The Blackhawks return to action Thursday night to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins at the CONSOL Energy Center.
Three Stars (Players to watch):
Michael Frolik: It took time to become adjusted to his new surroundings in Chicago, but Michael Frolik exploded in last year's playoffs, scoring 5 points (2G, 3A) in seven postseason games with the Blackhawks, and it's up to the Czech winger to replicate that success again. Frolik has been skating with center Dave Bolland often in practices, but with Bolland not making the trip, it is still important for Frolik to hit the ground running and get a good start to the season, beginning with his first game action tonight.
Bryan Bickell: With a full season of NHL experience under his belt, Bryan Bickell has said that he is looking to take his game to the next level in 2011-12, wanting to be more of a two-way force and playing more consistently overall. He may be teamed with Frolik, who was a linemate during the playoffs before Bickell was forced to leave the series with a wrist injury. Like Frolik, it will be important for Bickell's individual success and the Blackhawks' success overall that "Bicks" picks up where he left off.
Alexander Salak / Ray Emery: After splitting duty Tuesday in Saskatoon, Emery and Salak will return to the crease tonight, with Salak getting the starting nod and Emery relieving him, according to Head Coach Joel Quenneville. The coach had good things to say about both netminder's performances after the 4-2 loss, and a standout performance by either goalie could give him a leg up in the race for a roster spot.
Rising Star (Must-watch prospect): The only junior-eligible player left on the active roster, Brandon Saad will get another turn to impress the Blackhawks coaches and front office Thursday night. While the Blackhawks' system is deep at forward, Saad does have very high potential, and was considered a potential top draft pick by many prognosticators. He may be a longshot to crack the roster this season, but if Saad shows something, he will certainly get Blackhawks fans excited about his prospects for the future.
Know the enemy (Opponent Report): The Penguins will play tonight's game as the second half of back-to-back contests; they faced the Detroit Red Wings in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury played Wednesday, and the Penguins' roster for Thursday is still to be announced. Penguins Head Coach Dan Bylsma did say that the team's 2011 second-round pick Scott Harrington will be on the ice tonight. Star forward Sidney Crosby and defenseman Brooks Orpik are among the Penguins working their way back from injury.
Fun Fact: Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad is a Pittsburgh-area native, and listed Sidney Crosby as his favorite NHL player on his nhl.com draft profile.