With Brandon Saad back, new Blackhawks top line ‘a force out there’

With so many new faces, coach Joel Quenneville likely will spend weeks, if not months, tinkering with his lineup. But one line does appear set, and Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik looked pretty good in their two scrimmages Friday.

“They’re a force out there,” Patrick Kane said. “They’re going to be a special line. I thought all three of them seemed to have some chemistry right away. As time goes on, they’re going to be a force throughout games, and probably leading the charge for us. It’s an intimidating line to play against. They’re fast, they’re strong, they’re strong on the puck, they’re good with the puck possession, they can score goals. And obviously, they’re going to be good defensively. Looks like that line’s going to be a good one for us.”

The only other safe bet is Duncan Keith being paired with newcomer Connor Murphy on the top defensive pairing. They skated together Friday. Nick Schmaltz got the first crack at playing on Kane’s left wing. Schmaltz is a natural center, but could be the replacement for Artemi Panarin.

Injury report

After spending much of his first three seasons on Jonathan Toews' line, Brandon Saad (left) returned to that spot in Friday's scrimmages. (File photo)

Veteran defenseman Michal Rozsival did not pass his precamp physical and has not been cleared to practice. Rozsival is still dealing with the effects of a sucker punch from Anaheim’s Nick Ritchie in April. Tommy Wingels spent his summer in a walking boot after breaking his left foot in July but has been cleared to play and participated fully Friday.

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

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