Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.
1. Who will step up in Nick Schmaltz's absence?
The Blackhawks will likely be without Schmaltz (upper-body injury) during their mini two-game road trip in Canada, meaning they'll have a gap to fill at the second-line center position. Given his familiarity with Patrick Kane from the previous two seasons, Artem Anisimov is the obvious candidate to step into that role.
But the bottom six gets dicey after that. Tanner Kero, who missed Saturday's game with an injury, will probably return to the lineup and perhaps may move up to center the third line alongside Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Sharp, with Tommy Wingels staying on the fourth in between Lance Bouma and John Hayden.
It will certainly need to be a collective effort though to replace what Schmaltz brings to the table offensively.
2. Two high-powered offenses.
Nobody has scored more goals through two games than the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs, both of whom lead the league with 15 goals. In fact, the third-highest scoring team is Washington with 11.
There's fire power all over the ice, and it's a fun early matchup between a team that has three Stanley Cups in the salary cap era and a team that could become a powerhouse over the next decade.
Which offense will slow down first?
3. Third line could be difference.
What has made these two teams dangerous in the early going is their ability to score from anywhere up and down the lineup. The Maple Leafs' third line, particularly, of Patrick Marleau, Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov has combined for five goals and five assists.
The Blackhawk's top six has dominated in two games, but they'll need help from their bottom six to stay in the win column, especially with Schmaltz out.