Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Nashville Predators tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 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. Who's in and who's out?
The Blackhawks are getting hit by the injury bug all at once, but they overcame it in Friday's 2-1 shootout win over the Islanders. Tonight could be more difficult against a hot Predators team in their building. and the second of a back-to-back. Joel Quenneville said after yesterday's game that Artem Anisimov (lower-body injury) and Nick Schmaltz (illness) "could play" tonight, and just getting one back would be a boost and help balance out the lines. The Blackhawks were forced to start Tanner Kero at second line center in between Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane, a spot Schmaltz thrived in after Anisimov left Wednesday's game early.
Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper-body) and newly-acquired defenseman Johnny Oduya (ankle/conditioning) remain out of the lineup, and are aiming to return next week.
2. Is Artemi Panarin past his slump?
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have been on fire over the past month, as has been the top line, spearheading the Blackhawks to an 11-1-0 record in their last 12 games. It's hidden the recent scoring slump of Panarin, who had just two goals in his last 20 games entering Friday's game. He broke through in a big way, by burying a one-timer with 1:14 left in regulation to tie the game and netting the game-winner in the shootout. It's a huge confidence boost for the Russian winger, and perhaps it will open the floodgates.
3. Duncan Keith and P.K. Subban.
These two are among the best and most entertaining defensemen in the NHL, and both play important roles on their clubs. Keith ranks fourth among all blue liners with 39 assists and 44 points, logging 25:53 of ice time per game. Subban is tied for ninth among defensemen with 0.65 points per game, and is a key factor on the power play for the Predators with 12 of his 31 points coming on the man advantage.
4. How will Corey Crawford respond to second game in two days?
After it was announced that Scott Darling will miss the next three weeks with an upper-body injury, a source telling Insider Tracey Myers that it's his hand, Crawford might have a heavy slate coming up. Darling probably would have gotten one of these past two, but it's likely going to be Crawford again in a divisional game — although Quenneville did not provide a clear-cut answer yesterday.
If, in fact, Crawford is between the pipes, it will be his first time starting two games in as many days since December 2015. Considering he's started in only four games the last 22 days — due to the Blackhawks' bye week and an illness that sidelined him for another week — there shouldn't be any concern about fatigue. He's fresh, and coming off a terrific performance in which he stopped 31 of 32 shots in a 2-1 shootout win.
5. It's raining hat tricks.
In the past 12 days, Filip Forsberg, Kane and Toews have combined for five hat tricks, with a pair each by the Predators 22-year-old forward and reigning Hart Trophy winner. Forsberg had back-to-back three-goal games a week and a half ago, while Kane followed up Toews' three-goal, five-point night with a hat trick of his own, and another on Wednesday. Could we see another one tonight?
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