Blackhawks-Lightning square off in Stanley Cup rematch


Blackhawks-Lightning square off in Stanley Cup rematch

The stakes are nowhere near the height they were a few months ago but the Blackhawks still consider it big when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday night at the United Center.

The Blackhawks, who beat the Lightning in Chicago in mid-June to win their third Stanley Cup in six seasons, want to build off their 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers.

“Both teams still want to win, still want to prove themselves to each other, considering where we were last spring,” Jonathan Toews said. “We improved a little bit [Thursday] and we’ll need another jump in our pace in the way we’ve been playing lately if we want to find a way to win that game.”

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The Blackhawks will go with the same lineup as Thursday, which means Bryan Bickell is expected to be a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game. Corey Crawford gets the start.

The Lightning, who beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-3 in overtime on Friday night, did not skate on Saturday morning. Tampa media reports that goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis was recalled from Syracuse and could start. Gudlevskis is remembered for his 55-stop performance for the Latvian national team vs. Team Canada in the 2014 Winter Olympics. If Gudlevskis starts, the Blackhawks said they approach facing him the same they would any other goaltender.

“Every goalie in this league is a good goaltender. So you’ve got to get traffic to the net, put pucks there,” Andrew Shaw said. “Goalies are usually excited to play their first game [of the season], so I’m sure he’s going to play well. We’ll take his vision away as fast as possible.”

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Unlike the Blackhawks, who went through plenty of changes this offseason, the Lightning didn’t really go through any.

“Most teams have one or two lines you have to be concerned with. Tonight’s team is deeper and they have a real active back end so it’s going to be an ongoing challenge,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It’ll be a good test for some of our young defensemen as well. [It’s] definitely one of the better teams in the league.”

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

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?