Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks aim to stay hot vs. Devils tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks aim to stay hot vs. Devils tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the New Jersey Devils tonight on CSN and streaming live on Coverage begins at 7 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. Down two centers?

The Blackhawks have found a way to pick up five out of a possible six points in their last three games without Jonathan Toews, who will miss a fourth straight with an upper-body injury, but it's asking a lot if you also take away their second-line center who had been filling in on the top line. Artem Anisimov limped off the ice late in the third period of Wednesday's game, and didn't return. He has officially been cleared to play, so the lines won't be as interesting as we initially thought, but it's worth watching whether Anisimov will be at full strength.

2. Strong on the penalty kill.

The Devils haven't taken many advantages on the power play away from home this season, cashing in on only three of their 39 opportunities, a success rate of 7.7 percent, which ranks second-worst. They will be getting a big boost on offense tonight, however, with Taylor Hall, who's been sidelined for the last eight games with a knee injury, returning to the lineup. It will also be a challenge considering Jonathan Toews remains out, which takes away one of the Blackhawks' top penalty killers. One way to avoid this problem is to stay out of the box all together.

3. Corey Crawford vs. Cory Schneider.

Stop us if you've heard this before: Crawford has been standing on his head lately, and the Blackhawks wouldn't be stealing points on a consistent basis without him. He came up large again in Wednesday's 2-1 shootout win over Florida, stopping 38 of 39 shots, including both shootout attempts. Crawford's counterpart tonight isn't too bad, either. While his numbers aren't quite as good as they were last year, Schneider remains one of the league's top goaltenders with a 8-6-3 record, 2.56 goals against average and .914 save percentage this season. He backstopped the Devils to victories in both meetings against the Blackhawks last year, turning aside 54 of 58 shots, good for a .931 save percentage. Perhaps we'll see another goaltending duel.

4. Slow down Michael Cammalleri.

One of the hottest sticks in the league right now is Cammalleri, who was named the NHL's second star of the week after recording at least two points in all three games. He has seven goals and four assists in his last six, which included a hat trick, the sixth of his career, in a 4-1 win over Carolina despite logging a season-low 13:10 minutes of ice time. The 34-year-old winger ranks second on the team in points with 14 despite missing six games with an injury. Keep the puck off his twig.

5. John Quenneville to make his NHL debut.

It will be a mini family reunion at the United Center tonight. After placing Beau Bennett (leg) on injured reserve, John Quenneville was recalled by the Devils and is expected to make his debut — unless the return of Taylor Hall somehow blocks him from hopping into the lineup, which would put a damper on a cool story. John is the second cousin of Joel, the Blackhawks' head coach. He was a first-round pick (No. 30 overall) in the 2014 draft, and leads Albany, the Devils' AHL affiliate, in goals (7) and points (17) through 19 games. It should be a memorable moment for all the Quenneville's in the house.

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Four takeaways: Standouts from Blackhawks first preseason win against Red Wings

Four takeaways: Standouts from Blackhawks first preseason win against Red Wings

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 preseason win over the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center on Wednesday:

1. Alex Nylander gets a shot on the top line

After having a goal and an assist in his preseason debut on Monday, Nylander was rewarded by the Blackhawks coaching staff by starting on the first line with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. And he certainly didn't look out of place.

The trio logged 14:28 of ice time together at 5-on-5 and generated 18 shots for and only five against, according to Natural Stat Trick. They also teamed up on Duncan Keith's eventual game-winning goal in the second period.

Nylander finished with a secondary assist, three shot attempts (two on goal) and one takeaway in 20:44 of action. He’s going to give the Blackhawks management something to think about.

"I thought he was good," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Again, we're looking for his play without the puck. We know he's going to do a lot with the puck. It's their first time playing together so there's always going to be some kinks you're working out as far as the plays they're making and what not but he had a great net drive on Dunc's goal. Those are the things that people don't notice but opens up ice.

"We want to open up ice for those skill guys he's playing with. I thought he had a couple really good tracks. He was forechecking, he was skating. That's what we're looking for and if he continues to do that then he can be effective at this level no matter who he's playing with."

2. Individual standouts

— Dominik Kubalik was given a top-six role again after his two-goal night in his preseason debut on Tuesday in Detroit. And he was noticeable. He recorded three shot attempts (one on goal) and had a game-high four takeaways in 14:29 of action.

— The Olli Maatta and Brent Seabrook pairing turned in a strong showing together. They were on the ice for 20 shot attempts for and seven against and eight scoring chances for and two against in 13:28 of 5-on-5 ice time.

— Brandon Hagel was named the second star of the game after scoring a goal and tying Keith with a game-high four shots on goal. He also logged 11:58 of ice time and won both of his faceoffs.

— Adam Boqvist showed why he was drafted No. 8 overall in 2018. He's flashy and has elite offensive skill, which you can see in the video below. He also earned some praise from his head coach for his defensive play, which is the part of his game that's going to be a constant work in progress.

3. Penalty kill still ironing out some kinks

The top priority for the Blackhawks this summer was to shore up their defensive issues, and that included the penalty kill. And even though we shouldn't put too much stock into overall team performance and results in the preseason, the Blackhawks have given up at least one power-play goal in each of their first three games.

Fortunately for the Blackhawks, these games and stats don't count, but it obviously would be nice to head into the regular season with some positive momentum. Once the Blackhawks start to finalize their 23-man roster we should get a pretty good idea of what the special teams units could look like on Opening Night and beyond, and more chemistry will develop among the everyday players.

4. Roster cuts looming

In the last four days, the Blackhawks hosted their team scrimmage at the United Center and followed that up with three consecutive preseason contests. That was a significant evaluation period for the coaching staff and management.

Colliton said the Blackhawks are expected to make their first wave of roster cuts between now and Saturday, which is when their next preseason tilt is. The 23-man roster should start to take shape in the coming few days.

"We’re going to start," he said. "I don’t know exactly the timeline and how many and which day, but I can tell you it won’t all be in one day. And we’ll sort of work up to the game Saturday and we’ll have a tighter group, and especially for next week."

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Five Blackhawks make top 100 prospect list


Five Blackhawks make top 100 prospect list

After missing the playoffs for two straight seasons, the Blackhawks are in a transition period coming off the team’s long run as a Stanley Cup contender. There is hope for a relatively quick return to contention with a number of highly-regarded prospects.

ESPN ranked the top 100 NHL prospects on Wednesday and the Blackhawks have five skaters on the list.

Leading the way for Blackhawks prospects is Kirby Dach, who was the third pick in this year’s draft. He is ranked No. 6 overall. The top two picks from that draft, Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, are the top two prospects in the rankings.

Adam Boqvist is the second Blackhawks prospect, coming in at No. 29 overall. The defenseman was the No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 draft.

Defensemen Ian Mitchell (No. 68) and Nicolas Beaudin (No. 82) and right winger Alexander Nylander (No. 88) round out Blackhawks prospects in the top 100. Mitchell opted to return to the University of Denver for his junior year. Beaudin was the Blackhawks’ second first-round pick in 2018, picked No. 27. Nylander was acquired in the offseason in exchange for young defenseman Henri Jokiharju.

With five prospects on the list the Blackhawks had more than most teams. The Los Angeles Kings had the most prospects on the list with seven while the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers each had six.

ESPN also ranked the Blackhawks pool of prospects as ninth-best in the NHL.


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