Blackhawks

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks return home against Western-leading Vegas

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks return home against Western-leading Vegas

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks host the Vegas Golden Knights Friday night on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with an hour-long edition of Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. The start of a stretch of home games.

After enduring a six-game road trip that finished with a 2-3-1 record, the Blackhawks return to the United Center. Friday's game against Vegas is a tough test, but it's also the start of a run of eight of nine games that will be played at the UC.

The Blackhawks host the Oilers on Sunday after this game and have six straight at home after traveling to Ottawa. The Hawks have a good, but not great home record at 10-5-2. If the Blackhawks are as good as they hope to be, they will take advantage of this run of games with a pile of points on the other end. If not, then it appears the struggle to get into a playoff spot may last all season.

2. Vegas is for real.

We're past the point of asking if Vegas is for real. The Golden Knights lead the Western Conference and the regular season is nearly halfway finished. The question is no longer can Vegas make the playoffs, but how high can the Golden Knights finish and what can they do once the postseason arrives?

The good news for the Blackhawks is that Vegas has had a much better record at home than away (the Hawks were a victim to this in a 4-2 loss on Oct. 24). The Golden Knights will host the Blackhawks again in February, but this one is at the UC and should give the Hawks a good chance. Vegas is 17-2-1 at home (best in the NHL) and 10-8-1 on the road (still solid, but not quite among the league's best).

3. Blackhawks still calling Glass.

Since Corey Crawford went down with injury, the Blackhawks' goaltending situation has been in flux. Anton Forsberg, who was the No. 2 behind Crawford, struggled in his chance to become the starter for the time being. Jeff Glass, the 32-year-old rookie, has filled in admirably and the Blackhawks have a 2-0-1 record in his three starts.

Will Glass remain the starter while Crawford is out? Will he take Forsberg's roster spot once Crawford returns? These are questions without immediate answers, but in the short-term the Blackhawks will constantly be evaluating both goalies to see who deserves ice time and a roster spot.

Patrick Kane hits milestone, but Blackhawks get blown out by Islanders

Patrick Kane hits milestone, but Blackhawks get blown out by Islanders

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.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks return to action against Islanders

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks return to action against Islanders

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.