The NFHL is ready to drop the puck and begin the 199 season with eight games scheduled on opening night. One of those match ups is a battle between the Chicago Blackhawks and the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Both teams have made significant changes to their rosters since they last faced each other, making it difficult to predict what will happen in tonight's game. What we do know is that each franchise is focused on building for the future and some believe this could lead to a new rivalry based on similar goals and timelines.


It was a busy summer in the trade market for these two clubs. Chicago continued to sell the remaining assets from their midseason purge and New York decided to tear down a team that finished in 4th place with 96 points. They combined for a total of 16 deals including a couple of blockbusters. The Blackhawks moved out forwards Dave Morrison and Bob Probert, while the Rangers parted ways with stars Mario Lemieux, Carey Wilson, Joe Nieuwendyk, Al MacInnis and Grant Fuhr. New York GM Mike Kastner made some big moves that were scrutinized in the media but he didn't back down when challenged by his peers. Hawks GM Dan Minion dealt with similar criticism last season and had this to say about the Rangers GM.


"I thought Mike handled the situation about as well as he could have. We all know he made a huge mistake trading away a superstar in his prime. Sure, he wants to have a younger team, but Mario is only 25 and there won't be another player like him for 10 or 15 years, maybe even longer. All of those players were under 30, which is just mind-boggling. But he's standing by his decision which earns back a little respect," said Minion. "I've been told I was in consideration for the Rangers job. Let's just say if that had worked out I wouldn't have traded any of those players. Their previous GM built a pretty good team, but I guess Mike has a better plan. It will be interesting to watch it play out."


If the preseason is any indication, the Rangers are on the right track. They sailed along with a perfect 6-0 record. Meanwhile the Blackhawks went 2-4 during the exhibition schedule, dropping games to the Rockies, Nordiques, North Stars and Blues while getting wins vs. Detroit and Winnipeg. Chicago tested various line combos in the first few games, but after defenseman Rich Pilon had an injury scare against Minnesota the team played it safe with their starters for the remainder of the preseason. The Hawks rookies gave their fans an exciting glimpse into the future while the veterans went on a scoring spree with 57 goals in two farm games.


Now that it's time for meaningful hockey games to resume the Hawks are hoping some of this momentum carries into the season. They brought in a few scorers this off season to help bail out their defense and goalies, but nobody is expecting a huge spike in goals scored. If they really want to compete, Chicago will need to cut back on taking penalties. Last year they finished with the second highest PIM total in the league and often gave away games while shorthanded. The Blackhawks allowed 10 power play goals in 6 preseason games and will need to cut that down or face another long year ahead.


Chicago Tribune Sports