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.