Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 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. Auston Matthews and Jonathan Toews.
Even before he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2016, Matthews drew early comparisons to Toews, and it's easy to see the connection. They're both terrific two-way centermen, are difficult to knock off the puck, are just as effective in the defensive zone that they are in the offensize zone, own a lethal shot, and are leaders both on and off the ice.
Matthews is having a sensational rookie campaign, with 31 goals and 24 assists for 55 points in 69 games. He's neck-and-neck with Patrik Laine in the Calder Trophy race as the league's top rookie, and is even challenging for the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as leading goal scorer.
2. Patrick Kane and Mitch Marner.
Like Matthews and Toews, there are many similarities between Kane and Marner. They're both undersized offensive wingers, possess great hands, are smooth skaters, and are dangerous on the power play. Kane joined Sportsnet's Hockey Central earlier in the year and acknowledged those comparisons, and even admitted that Marner is more of a two-way player than Kane was when he was 19 years old.
Marner, the No. 4 overall pick in 2015, is tied with Matthews for first on the team with 55 points in 64 games this season, and is on pace to finish with more points than Kane did (72) during his rookie campaign. Marner is averaging .86 points per game while Kane's average was .88.
3. Mike Babcock and Joel Quenneville.
When two of the best coaches in NHL history go up against each other, it's always fun to watch the chess match that occurs during the game. With the Blackhawks being the road team, Babcock will have the luxury of last line change. Both rosters are loaded with talent, so it will be interesting to see how Babcock plays his cards against Quenneville.
Babcock and Quenneville have combined for 1,434 regular-season wins, 200 playoff wins and four Stanley Cups. They also helped Team Canada capture gold at the World Cup last fall.
4. James and Trevor van Riemsdyk.
Because they're in different conferences, the van Riemsdyk brothers only see each other twice a year. But Trevor wasn't able to play in the first meeting all the way back on Oct. 22 due to an upper-body injury, and James missed both contests in 2015-16 with a fractured foot. So this will be their first game against each other since Nov. 1, 2014, which was the first time they faced off in the NHL.
In that game, Trevor was on the ice against his older brother for 8:03 of his 19:21 minutes, the highest amount of time he spent on the ice against one Maple Leafs player. James scored a goal in that game, and he also lit the lamp in the first meeting this season.
5. Beware Toronto's power play.
As mentioned above, the Maple Leafs have a handful of young, skilled forwards that can make you pay on the man advantage. They're No. 1 in the league in that department with a 23.7 percent success rate. And they're in a nice groove right now, too, having scored at least a power play goal in five of their past six games, going 6-for-19 (31.6 percent) during that stretch.
The Blackhawks have been great on the penalty kill in eight games this month, allowing only one goal in their last 16 tries (93.8 percent). As Pat Foley would say, something's gotta give!
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