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Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks aim to snap losing streak vs. Coyotes tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks aim to snap losing streak vs. Coyotes tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

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Five Things to Watch:

1. New lines! (Again).

The Blackhawks reunited Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa on the top line Tuesday against San Jose, but it was short-lived. Joel Quenneville juggled the lines in the third period, and is going with some new ones again tonight. Nick Schmaltz is paired up with Toews and Richard Panik on the first line, followed by Artem Anisimov, Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin on the second. Hossa was moved to the third line with Marcus Kruger and Dennis Rasmussen, while Tanner Kero centered the fourth line with Andrew Desjardins and Ryan Hartman at Wednesday's practice to round out the bottom six. Let's see how long these last.

2. New power play units, too.

The Blackhawks have scored only one power play goal in their last eight games, and are searching for more consistency in that area. So both units were spruced up. Gustav Forsling was manning the point on the first unit with four forwards that included Kane, Panik, Schmaltz and Toews. Brian Campbell and Brent Seabrook anchored the point on the second unit with Anisimov, Hossa and Panarin up front. It should be noted, however, that Duncan Keith did not practice Wednesday. He'll likely take Forsling's spot on the first unit, unless Quenneville decides to take out the fourth forward.

3. Capitalize on special teams.

The Blackhawks have struggled on special teams as of late, going 1-for-20 (5 percent) on the power play in their last eight games and 14-for-18 (77.8 percent) on the penalty kill in their past seven, allowing a goal in four of those contests. The good news is, the Coyotes are a bottom-five team in both special teams categories with a 15.2 power-play percentage and 77.2 penalty kill percentage.

4. Will Artemi Panarin break out of his slump?

The Russian sniper hasn't scored a goal in eight straight games, and has registered only two assists during that span. He's slipped to 20th in the league in scoring with 44 points. The Blackhawks are 3-5-0 since his drought.

5. Play your game.

The Coyotes rank third in the league with 1,335 hits, and will look to knock the Blackhawks off their game. The Blackhawks like to play a puck possession style of hockey, but they've been in the middle of the pack in that area this season. Arizona ranks dead last in possession numbers, and allow the most shots per game at 33.5.

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Why fixing penalty kill is crucial for Blackhawks in 2019-20

Why fixing penalty kill is crucial for Blackhawks in 2019-20

Just how important is special teams in the NHL?

Of the 16 teams that qualified for the postseason, 14 clubs had at least one special teams unit that was ranked in the top half of the league and 12 teams had at least one unit ranked in the top 10.

The Blackhawks finished the season with the 15th-ranked power play and 31st-ranked penalty kill. The Blackhawks' 72.7 percent kill rate is the lowest the league has seen in 30 years.

“The penalty kill is something that clearly has to be better," GM Stan Bowman said. "That was a big disappointment this year, no question about that. So we have to devote some resources to that. Some of it might be players, if we get some players that have that kind of experience or have a history. Part of it is tactically can we find ways to be better. We have a lot of time now to study it and put a lot of our focus on that.”

Jeremy Colliton did not rule out getting external help to improve the PK.

“We’re going to look at everything, for sure," he said. "We’re going to look at obviously tactically and we’re going to look at the personnel and how we’re using guys and try to put them in the best situation we can. And maybe that’s new, different guys who weren’t getting the opportunity. Or maybe that’s someone from outside.”

The Blackhawks did manage to fix their power play issues this past season. When Colliton became head coach on Nov. 6, the Blackhawks power play was near the bottom of the league. By December, the man advantage was dead last, cashing in on fewer than 12 percent of their power plays.

Colliton made Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Erik Gustafsson his top power play unit and from Dec. 20 till the end of February they were the league's best unit, converting on 35.2 percent of their power plays.  

Gustafsson’s addition to the power play was a major factor in the unit's improvement.

"A big part of our power play progression and transformation from being at the bottom to being in the top group," Bowman said of Gustafsson. "I was really pleased with that and we're going to need him next year for sure.”

If the Blackhawks penalty kill can make strides like the power play did, Colliton’s crew will likely be playing at this time next season.

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Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

The London Knights set high expectations for themselves going into the 2018-19 OHL campaign. They always do. Their roster is usually loaded with top NHL prospects and this season was no different.

After finishing No. 1 in the Western Conference with 99 points, the Knights looked poised to go on a deep run. They got off to a roaring start in the playoffs by sweeping the Windsor Spitfires (4-0) and kicked off the second round by winning three straight against the Guelph Storm. But then, for the first time all season, the Knights lost four in a row to squander a 3-0 series lead and were eliminated just like that. It was a disappointing finish for a team with Memorial Cup aspirations.

One of the bright spots of the postseason was Blackhawks prospect Adam Boqvist. He was tied for first among all skaters with 10 goals through two rounds; no other defenseman had more than six. And he finished with 13 points in 11 games for a points-per-game average of 1.18.

To summarize his season: Boqvist scored one goal in his first 15 games. From that point on, he finished with 29 goals and 60 points in 50 games, including playoffs. He became an offensive driving force.

It's unclear what his future holds, but with Evan Bouchard expected to turn pro and secure a full-time roster spot on the Edmonton Oilers next season, returning to London would put Boqvist in a position where he could be the No. 1 defenseman in all situations.

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