Blackhawks

From December to remember to....

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From December to remember to....

At the risk of being a grinch, this next month will tell us a whole lot more about the Blackhawks than this last one since they returned from the Circus Trip. Give them a well-deserved pat on the back for their impressive 8-1-1 record so far in December. But while we got two doses of the Islanders, and single servings of the Ducks, Flames and Canadiens, if you haven't noticed what lies ahead, you'll see what I mean. You, me Joel Quenneville, Stan Bowman and probably every player in that locker room will have a better grasp of exactly who they are when the calendar flips to February. That happens right after the opener of nine straight road games against their old buddies from Vancouver, which has gone 7-2-1 in its last 10. It might not be a bad idea to punch the clock again Monday by regaining momentum against worst-in-the-NHL Columbus, not looking ahead like we'll do right now:
> Wednesday: LOS ANGELES
1-0-1 under Darryl Sutter and facing desperation to get back in the playoff hunt or prepare for an unexpected, embarrassing miss.

> Friday: DETROIT
The Wings lurk just five points back, and get back to work with back-to-backs against Nashville & St. Louis

> Sunday: EDMONTON
Remember 9-2? A huge chance for revenge here with these Young Guns tasting some serious Humble Pie of late (3-8-1 in their last 12)

> Jan. 5th: @ Philadelphia
It's the FlyGuys first game since the Winter Classic HBO's cameras go away

> Jan. 6th: COLORADO
Like the Oilers, they're back down to earth after beating the Hawks in a shootout at the UC that improved their record to 6-2. But make sure those legs are ready. Their speed is dangerous.
> Jan. 8th: DETROIT
After not seeing them the first 37 games, I can hearf the chants now for a second time in 10 days? Will the Hawks still be 5 ahead? More? Less?

> Jan. 10th: @ Columbus
A "break"? A "breather"? As long as they don't think that way....
> Jan. 12th: MINNESOTA
Where will the Wild Things be at this point? They're still just three points behind the Hawks despite their current 0-4-2 slump. Will their ship be righted?
> Jan. 14th: @ Detroit
Oh. Them again?
> Jan. 15th: SAN JOSE
Nice back-to-back

> Jan. 18th: BUFFALO
One of the disappointments of the East desperately needs Ryan Miller to be Ryan Miller again

> Jan. 20th: FLORIDA
Maybe the best line in hockey (in Kris Versteeg's & Brian Campbell's first game back) & maybe the biggest surprise in hockey, leading the Southeast. Big.

> Jan. 21st: @ Nashville
Which way will the Preds be streaking at this point?

> Jan. 24th: NASHVILLE
Never fun facing Trotzy's Troop twice in a row
> Jan. 31st: @ Vancouver
They have six days of rest to rev up for the start of the massive roadie. Where will the last two Western Conference champions stand at this point?

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

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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?