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.) 

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators 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. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?


Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: