Blackhawks

Blackhawks' Saad keeping nerves under control

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Blackhawks' Saad keeping nerves under control

Coverage of tonight's season opener starts at 7:00 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet.

DALLAS -- Brandon Saad has handled his quick-to-the-NHL odyssey very well this preseason. And that first road night out with the teammates was pretty enjoyable, too.

"We had a good dinner. The travel and all the expenses, it's pretty cool," Saad said with a laugh.

Now the Chicago Blackhawks will see how the rookie wing will handle his regular-season debut.

Saad's parents will be in the American Airlines Center crowd tonight as Saad and the Blackhawks open the season against the Dallas Stars. It's heady stuff for the 18-year-old, but he's handled it well thus far. Having Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp as linemates never hurts, either.

"Being as young as I am and playing with these two guys, it's going to be incredible," said Saad, who added he's been able to keep the nerves pretty calm so far. "There'll be some nerves closer to game time. But once you're out there you just play your game."

Linemate Sharp said "I'm sure there'll be some conversations throughout the game. Jonnny likes to talk and yell and scream if things aren't going well. We'll have advice for him but based on the way he's been playing I think he's ready to go."

Coach Joel Quenneville said he'll keep an eye on his young forward.

"He's with a couple nice guys to play with as well," Quenneville said. "They'll help him along and we'll see how he handles it."

Burish behavior

Former Blackhawks forward Adam Burish (groin) will miss Friday's opener but is hoping to play Saturday night when the Stars and Blackhawks meet again in Chicago. But Burish still couldn't pass up the chance to have fun with his old teammates.

"I could take on Kane with one groin no problem," Burish joked Friday. "I think just trying to hold down that big horse (Marian) Hossa would be a little tougher. But I could take (Patrick) Kane and (Patrick) Sharp with one groin. Im gonna rest up and embarrass them in their own building tomorrow."

Burish had fun talking about Kane playing center but nevertheless thinks his former teammate can play just fine there.

"He better practice his faceoffs a little bit because I remember beating him up in practice a few times," Burish said. "Hell be good though. The thing that hell be good at is just the way he skates. He can skate so good and on the wing, you gotta stop and start a little bit where now hell able to do those big loops and those circles and go back and take it off Duncan Keiths stick and skate all the way up the ice."

Dowell's new digs

Jake Dowell is getting used to his new surroundings in Dallas. He said he didn't know what to expect last summer, and was somewhat surprised that he wasn't a Blackhawk again this year. Dowell was one of the few who would tussle last season; but the Blackhawks let him go and signed gritty veterans Jamal Mayers and Daniel Carcillo.

"I was a little bit surprised, but that's just the decision that was made and they wanted a group of different guys to get in there to bring the toughness and the grit," said Dowell, who adjusted to Dallas quickly.

"It's been a pretty easy transition getting down here and they've been great," Dowell said of the Stars. "It's been a little bit of a long training camp because you're just chomping at the bit to get going. But there's good chemistry with the team here."

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit first-place Lightning

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit first-place Lightning

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.

There hasn't been a more dynamic duo in the NHL so far this season than Kucherov and Stamkos, who have combined for 68 points (27 goals, 41 assists) through 20 games, and sit first and second in the scoring race.

They've each recorded a point in every game except three — which coincidentally have been the same games — and they've lost all three of those contests. Kucherov has also scored a goal in 15 of 20 games this season. That's absurd when you consider he's scoring on a consistent basis; it's not like they're coming in spurts.

To put all that into perspective, he reached the 17-goal mark in his 36th game last year and still finished second in the league with 40 goals. He hit the 17-goal mark in 16 fewer games this season. How many can he realistically finish with? 60?

2. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Tampa Bay knows how dangerous Chicago's dynamic duo can be as well, as evidenced in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. The Blackhawks' superstars know how to get up for a big game.

In 13 career regular-season games against the Lightning, Kane has 18 points (six goals, 12 assists). Toews has 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 14 games.

They're both producing at or above a point-per-game pace, and they're going to need more of that against this powerhouse Lightning team.

3. Something's gotta give.

Tampa Bay's offensive prowess is off the charts up and down the lineup. It has four lines that can come at you at waves, and a strong, active blue line led by potential Norris Trophy finalist Viktor Hedman and Calder Trophy candidate Mikhail Sergachev.

Although Chicago allows the fourth-most shots per game (34.0), it actually hasn't been bad at preventing goals — a large reason for that is Corey Crawford. 

The Lightning rank first in goals per game (3.95) and first in power play percentage (28.0) while the Blackhawks rank sixth in goals against per game (2.65) and four in penalty kill percentage (84.9).

Who's going to crack first?

Artem Anisimov keeps his vow, dons a mustache and raises his productivity in November

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USA TODAY

Artem Anisimov keeps his vow, dons a mustache and raises his productivity in November

Artem Anisimov wasn’t happy with his October.

The Blackhawks center struggled the first month of the season. Maybe it was adjusting to new line mates after being with the same two for two seasons. Maybe it was just a slow start. Maybe it was more than that. Regardless, Anisimov was frustrated. So as October turned to November, Anisimov told Patrick Sharp that he was going to get back on track.

“He’s scoring lots of goals and he said he was going to in the month of November,” Sharp recalled. “So he’s backing it up.”

Anisimov is doing that, recording five goals in his last three games including a hat trick against his former team, the New York Rangers, on Wednesday. Since November’s start, Anisimov has seven goals.

“My start of the season was not great,” Anisimov said. “But I keep working hard and be focused and say, ‘OK, November. I’m going to step up in November and forward.’”

When told of Anisimov’s prediction to Sharp, coach Joel Quenneville said, “well, now he set a precedent. We’ll have to look for it every month now.

“Quite a standard he was looking to achieve and got off to a great start here,” Quenneville said. “When Arty’s at the net he makes good plays, takes it to the net, draws some traffic to him and opens up other lanes behind him. I still think he has a purpose defensively, which he can add to that line.”

Anisimov’s resurgence coincides with the Blackhawks doing the same thing; after an up-and-down start, both are finding their rhythm again. For the Blackhawks it could be finding some line chemistry. For Anisimov it might be the same thing; he and Kane have been back together since Nov. 12, and those two and Nick Schmaltz have combined for a dynamic second line.

Or is it that mustache that Anisimov’s growing for Movember?

“I thought when you were saying what you were saying (about Anisimov’s vow), he made that statement when he got Kaner back on his line. But I think it was right when he shaved his beard into a mustache. That’s when he took off,” Jonathan Toews said with a laugh. “So that’s the biggest correlation right there.”

OK, teaming up with Kane again probably looms larger. The two have had great chemistry dating back to the 2015-16 season, when they first teamed with Artemi Panarin. Kane’s puck possession helps free Anisimov up to do his work at the net, and he’s been capitalizing there.

“He’s had a great month. He’s just one of those guys who gets to the front of the net and finds ways to be productive,” Kane said. “Maybe seven or eight games ago people were talking about how he was struggling and now he’s having a great start to the season. It shows how a few games can change that but he’s been great for us, not only scoring a lot of goals but a lot of big goals to get some wins.”

Still, hockey players are a superstitious lot. Players have ribbed Anisimov about the mustache — “I asked him to serve me a sparkling water on the airplane because he looks like a waiter in France or something,” Sharp said. But considering Anisimov’s mustache and the points sprouted at the same time, they’re now imploring Anisimov to keep it.

“Yep,” Anisimov said with a grin. “That’s true.”