Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Predators Friday on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.
1. Let's go line dancing. Joel Quenneville is a habitual line tinkerer, and on Friday, we'll get our first glimpse at the new Blackhawks' forward groupings. Although the shakeup hits all four lines, the most interesting switch comes at the top, where rookie Alex DeBrincat gets his chance to play alongside Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad. The 19-year-old has only one goal in the team's first 10 games, but maybe he, and the offense, will get a jump-start from the changes.
Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz welcome Richard Panik to the second line, keeping an edge of physicality in the fold. Panik is already tied for fourth on the team with eight points, so it will be intriguing to see how he adds to what is usually the Hawks best offensive line.
2. Gotta be special. The Preds have some of the best special teams in the NHL, ranking sixth on the power play and fifth on the penalty kill. Sources say that's pretty good, and the Blackhawks would be wise to stay out of the penalty box.
It seems rather unlikely that the Hawks' 20th-ranked power play will snap out of its funk against the astute Preds' kill, but strange things seem to happen when these two teams square off...
3. Sweet smell of revenge (kinda). Winning a regular season game in October doesn't quite equate to sweeping a playoff series, but the Hawks' overtime win in Nashville a few weeks back was a positive step on the revenge ladder.
Expect the Hawks to be skating with a little extra juice come 7:30 p.m., when they hit the ice to try and wipe away bad memories from home fans' minds.
Probably not the way the Blackhawks wanted to start their second half of the season.
After a five-day break, the Blackhawks suffered a brutal 7-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday night at the United Center. This coming after a 4-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on home ice last Sunday.
"It was a game we had to win," Quenneville said after Saturday's loss. "Disappointing in a lot of ways."
The Blackhawks needed both goaltenders to get through 60 minutes. Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass combined for 39 saves on 46 shots.
On the offensive side of things, Patrick Kane hit a milestone.
The 29-year-old had two goals and an assist and recorded his 800th career point, becoming the fifth player in franchise history to reach 800 points.
The Blackhawks are now 22-18-6 on the season with 50 points and rank last in the Central Division, five points behind the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild.
The Blackhawks' schedule doesn't get any easier when the Tampa Bay Lightning — the league-leader in points — come to town on Monday.
See what Quenneville and Kane had to say about Saturday's loss in the video above.
Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the New York Islanders tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.
1. Erik Gustafsson's season debut.
The Blackhawks recalled one of their top defensive prospects on Jan. 9 but haven't been able to get him some game action yet. All signs point to that changing tonight.
He skated on a pairing with Brent Seabrook during Friday's practice, and was even placed on the second power play unit during special teams drills. Joel Quenneville was excited about the possibility of finally getting Gustafsson into the lineup.
"Good option, good opportunity," Quenneville said. "We’re not for sure but certainly he’s been around, he’s eager to go. I look forward to seeing what he can do."
2. Anthony Duclair's promotion.
He hasn't been in Chicago for very long but Duclair is quickly working his way up the lineup. The newly-acquired Blackhawk registered an assist in his team debut last Friday in a 2-1 victory over Winnipeg, and was put on a power play unit as well.
On Friday, Duclair was promoted to the top line with Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews and continued getting reps on the second power-play unit. Let's see if the 22-year-old can take advantage of that opportunity in a top-six role.
3. Mathew Barzal.
Three rookies will be named finalists for the Calder Trophy at the end of the season. Barzal is a lock to be one of them.
He not only leads all rookies with 48 points, but he ranks 15th in the entire league in the scoring race and is the only first-year player averaging at least a point per game.
The 20-year-old center has been sensational and he already has two five-point games in his young professional career. To put that into perspective, Patrick Kane recorded his first NHL five-point effort two weeks ago against the Ottawa Senators.