Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Minnesota Wild tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.
1. What's the status of Nick Schmaltz?
The Blackhawks picked up three out of a possible four points during their mini two-game road trip in Toronto and Montreal, but they've certainly missed Schmaltz. They were outshot by a combined 85-46 against the Maple Leafs and Canadiens, showing the imbalance their lineup has with Schmaltz not in it.
Joel Quenneville told reporters at morning skate that Schmaltz will not play due to an upper-body injury, and they're now targeting Saturday for a potential return. Minnesota is the first of three straight games against Central Division opponents for Chicago, so the quicker Schmaltz can return the better.
2. Duncan Keith and Ryan Suter.
We've watched the Blackhawks score a ton of goals through four games this season, so let's focus on the defensive matchup this time, shall we?
Keith and Suter are the blue-line anchors for their respective teams, and are two of only a handful of defensemen who are capable of logging heavy minutes while getting better as the game goes on.
They've both gotten off to slow starts offensively, combining for two assists in six games, but that doesn't take away from how dangerous they are at both ends of the ice. They're the engines that make their defenses go.
3. Two potential Calder Trophy candidates.
Both the Blackhawks and Wild have exciting top prospects that have cracked the every-day lineup this season, and both of them have a chance to be in the mix for the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.
Alex DeBrincat, who was taken by Chicago in the second round (No. 39 overall) of the 2016 draft, scored his first career goal in the NHL on Tuesday night and has three points in four games.
Joel Eriksson Ek, a first-round selection (No. 20 overall) in 2015 by Minnesota, has solidified his spot as the Wild's third-line center, and scored a goal in the team's season opener.
Expect these two rookies to at least be in the hunt of the rookie scoring race all season.