With the preseason coming to an end, you know what that means! It’s hockey time! To get you prepared for this upcoming 2016-17 Blackhawks hockey season, here are four takeaways from the preseason:

1. Hjalmarsson Suspended

In an unfortunate turn during the preseason, Niklas Hjalmarsson has been suspended through the season opener. He misses the remaining preseason games, and one regular season game for charging St. Louis Blues forward Ty Rattie during their preseason game on Saturday, October 1, 2016.

2. Duncan Keith is Ready

After an issue with his right knee, defenseman Duncan Keith made his preseason debut against the Red Wings on October 4, 2016. If you needed any reassurance Keith would be ready for the regular season, you got it Tuesday night at the United Center. With Chicago’s 6-1 preseason win against the Detroit Red Wings, Keith and his knee were ready.

Paired with Trevor van Riemsdyk, Keith played 19:41, was on the ice for three of the Blackhawks’ goals, assisted on two goals, and played on both special teams. His skating was fluid and he continues to move freely on the ice with speed and no complications with his knee. Chicago runs on Duncan, and he’s ready for the season.

3. Vacant Forward Spots

Going into the 2016-17 season, there appear to be more vacant forward spots than usual. Unrestricted free agent, Jodrin Tootoo was signed, but other openings remain, which will be filled by rookies. These first opportunities look to be filled by Tyler Motte, Vincent Hinostroza, Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman. With more rookies than normal, this level of inexperience might leave a sense of uncertainty for the Blackhawks, but I wouldn’t worry—the Blackhawks always pull through.

4. A Stacked Defense

General Manager Stan Bowman spent the offseason with a new focus in mind: stacking the defense in front of goalies Corey Crawford and Scott Darling. On Jul 1, 2016, Bowman signed veteran Brian “Soupy” Campbell to a one-year contract to return to Chicago.

He also signed Michal Kempny to a one-year contract on May 24, 2016 after playing for Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) last season. Campbell is expected to play on one of the top defense pairs and handle a special-teams role. Kempny will play the left side on the third pair with TVR or Michal Rozsical. This improved defense is expected to keep games close, low scoring and winnable.

Here’s to another season of hockey! We look forward to seeing all of our favorites on the ice, as well as some new, fresh faces. The Blackhawks season opener is October 12, 2016 against the St. Louis Blues.

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