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 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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How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

Detroit Red Wings

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

The Blackhawks recalled No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach from his AHL conditioning stint on Friday night after he appeared in three games with the Rockford IceHogs. He missed the first week of training camp with a concussion and the organization wanted him to get a taste of the pro action and back up to speed after not playing in any preseason games, either.

"I enjoyed the experience there," Dach said. "I had a lot of fun. Got to see a couple buddies. It was good for me to get down there and get some pro games under my belt and just feel what the pace is going to be like. It'll be another step up here, but I feel good and I feel like I'm ready to go."

Whether Dach makes his NHL debut on Sunday against the Washington Capitals won't be revealed by head coach Jeremy Colliton until after morning skate on Sunday. But where does he fit into the lineup going forward?

The Blackhawks are 2-0-1 in their past three games and aren't necessarily looking to shake up their rotation, even though they're still searching for consistency on all four lines.

The easy answer is for Dach to slide into a third-line center role behind Jonathan Toews and Dylan Strome, but the trio of David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad has undoubtedly been the most consistent for the Blackhawks this season. And we saw in the home opener what happened when they were separated. 

The Blackhawks held an optional practice on Saturday morning and didn't run through line rushes, but before Dach was assigned to Rockford, he took several spins on the first line with Toews and alternated with Drake Caggiula and Alex DeBrincat. It's possible Dach starts on the wing, where he can play top-six minutes and not have as much responsibility as a center would.

"I've played wing in previous years, so it's not something that's new to me," Dach said. "At the same time I'm open-minded to just getting into the lineup and helping the team win."

The Blackhawks can give Dach up to nine NHL games before deciding whether they want to burn the first year of his entry-level contract or send him back to the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL.

"As a kid you always grow up dreaming of playing in the NHL, so there'll be nerves," Dach said. "But there will also be a lot of excitement. I've just got to do my best to focus on my game and be ready to play whenever my name's called upon by the coaching staff."

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks scratch out a win and Kirby Dach recalled

USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks scratch out a win and Kirby Dach recalled

Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis welcome Nick Gismondi into the fold before discussing Friday's win over Columbus. Robin Lehner played stellar and is forming quite a tandem in net with Corey Crawford (4:10), while the DeBrincat/Kane connection is alive and well (6:10), and the Blackhawks' struggles at even strength continued (12:10). Then, the guys react to the breaking news of Kirby Dach's recall from Rockford and discuss where he might fit into this lineup (15:10).

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast


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