Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks welcome Kings to town


Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks welcome Kings to town

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Los Angeles Kings 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 start in goal for Blackhawks?

With Corey Crawford out, Joel Quenneville has a decision to make. Does he roll with Anton Forsberg on the second of a back-to-back and coming off a 33-save performance or does he give Jean-Francois Berube a look between the pipes for what would be his first start of the season?

When Crawford missed three weeks last year with appendicitis, Scott Darling got all 10 starts, including a pair of back-to-backs. Now, maybe that was more about the faith Quenneville had in Darling being able to handle the heavy workload, but it's worth noting the second of a back-to-back isn't a deal-breaker for a backup goaltender.

Quenneville will go with his best chance to win, and it's also worth mentioning Berube's recent struggles with the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League. He started the year 5-0-0 with a 1.38 goals against average and .950 save percentage, but is 1-6-0 with a 3.47 GAA and .888 save percentage in seven games since then.

Quenneville will speak with the media at 4 p.m., and will there announce his starting goaltender for the night.

2. Fatigue setting in?

The Blackhawks have lost three straight — two in overtime or a shootout — after going 4-0-1 in their previous five games, and will be playing in their fifth game in seven days. It's certainly taxing, and even more-so when you're traveling overnight to get home for an earlier evening start tonight against a Los Angeles team who is waiting for them.

Quenneville doesn't like to change the lineup when the team is winning, but with three consecutive losses and a grueling week, perhaps there will be a few lineup changes to also get some fresh legs out there.

3. Similarities.

The Blackhawks and Kings drew a lot of similarities over the last half decade or so, with each of them winning multiple Stanley Cups and having to get through each other to achieve some of them. The rivalry has since died down after the Kings missed the playoffs two out of the last three years and the Blackhawks lost in the first round in two straight postseasons, but can it rekindle that old magic?

Well, they match up pretty evenly from a distance.

The Blackhawks and Kings are tied for 25th with a power play percentage of 16.7, and rank among the top 5 in both penalty kill percentage (Kings are first at 89.0 percent, Blackhawks fourth at 84.2 percent) and goals against average (Kings are first at 2.22, Blackhawks fifth at 2.65.) 

Gustav Forsling has big night in a game Blackhawks 'had to win'

Gustav Forsling has big night in a game Blackhawks 'had to win'

Gustav Forsling couldn't have picked a better night to record three points, including the game-winning goal.

Forsling helped the Blackhawks snap their five-game losing streak with a big, comeback win in overtime against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night at the United Center.

Already with a helper on Alex DeBrincat's goal in the second period, Forsling made his presence known in the third period and overtime.

With the Blackhawks on the penalty kill and trailing 2-1, Tommy Wingels redirected Forsling's shot from the point with 3:22 left in the third. Tie game.

Then in overtime, with 4.9 seconds left, Forsling sealed it when another shot from the point went under the pads of Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner. Ballgame. Blackhawks win 3-2.

Entering Friday, the Blackhawks were 0-3-2 in their last five games. It was their worst losing streak since 2011-12, when they lost nine games in a row.

Could the Blackhawks — who are now 13-11-5 and fifth in the Central Division — have used a bigger win than that?

"We had to win," coach Joel Quenneville said after the game.

Was this game the Blackhawks needed to turn things around?

Corey Crawford returns as Blackhawks shake up roster

Corey Crawford returns as Blackhawks shake up roster

After missing three games with a lower-body injury, Corey Crawford will return between the pipes when the Blackhawks begin a three-game homestand Friday against the Buffalo Sabres.

It's a nice confidence boost for a Blackhawks team looking to snap a five-game losing streak.

"It's huge," Duncan Keith said. "Obviously he's been great all year and for the last several years for us. A big part of our success. We know that when he's in net there, he makes those big saves when we need them. I think it gives everybody more confidence knowing we've got a guy back there that can make those type of saves and keep us in it even when we're not at our best."

The Blackhawks also recalled Vinnie Hinostroza from the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, the team announced Friday, after Tanner Kero cleared waivers.

Hinostroza was averaging nearly a point-per-game in Rockford, where he led the team with 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in 23 games, and had a plus-7 rating.

His offensive production in the AHL was too difficult to ignore, and the Blackhawks felt it was finally time to add him into the mix as they continue to search for some consistency up front.

"I just want to take it day by day, work hard to get back here," Hinostroza said. "Hard work's not over. I just want to come to the rink every day and still work hard and prove I belong here.

Hinostroza will certainly bring an element of speed to the four-line rotation, and maybe provide more balance.

It's unclear whose spot Hinostroza will take in the lineup because he didn't participate in morning skate, but expect him to play on the third line.

Alex DeBrincat was moved up to the top line with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad while Nick Schmaltz was reunited with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane on the second line.