Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks go for three in a row vs. Senators tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks go for three in a row vs. Senators tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on CSN and streaming live on Coverage begins at 6 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. John Hayden to make NHL debut.

Over the weekend, Hayden wrapped up his four-year collegiate career at Yale University. Five days later and the 22-year-old big-bodied forward is joining the Blackhawks for the stretch run, and potentially playoffs, too. He's expected to make his NHL debut tonight, and Joel Quenneville indicated to reporters Wednesday that Hayden will likely be playing on the top line with Jonathan Toews. Goes to show you how highly they think of this kid, and the immediate impact they believe he can make.

2. Nick Schmaltz moves to center.

With Artem Anisimov out three-to-four weeks due to a lower-body injury, Schmaltz will move back to second-line center with Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin. He's played center practically his entire career before the pros, so it shouldn't be much of an adjustment. And he was forced to slot into that role earlier this month, and shined during that brief stretch. He registered two assists and made a terrific backcheck to set up a Kane goal in a win over Pittsburgh, and also set up beautifully a pass to Panarin for the third goal of the game in Tuesday's win over Montreal. The only issue might be at the faceoff circle, where he's won only 30 percent in 196 tries. There's definitely room for improvement there.

3. Duncan Keith and Erik Karlsson.

A pair of former Norris Trophy winners will put their talents on display tonight, and they'll probably see a lot of each other on the ice. In their first meeting in Chicago on Dec. 20, Karlsson logged a team-high 28:25 of ice time while Keith had a game-high of 28:47. They were both on the ice for nearly half the time the other was on. Karlsson ranks second among defensemen with 62 points while Keith ranks fourth with 47. Both players will surely be in the Norris Trophy discussion at the end of the season, although it will take a lot to surpass runaway favorite Brent Burns.

4. Artemi Panarin bonus watch.

There are many scenarios for which Panarin can trigger his Schedule B bonus, which is worth $1.725 million and counts against next year's salary cap. The easiest way to do that is by finishing among the top-10 in the league in points, goals or assists. With four points in his last three games, Panarin is tied for 14th in scoring and trails by five for the No. 10 spot. He also has 39 assists, which ranks 20th, but is only separated from the No. 10 position by three. If he stays hot, it's certainly possible for him to hit those bonuses for the second straight year.

5. Can Blackhawks get back on track in shot differential department?

The Blackhawks have come away with wins over Minnesota and Montreal in their past two games, but they've been outshot 86-46 in those games thanks in large part to Corey Crawford, who followed up a season-high 42-save outing with a 40-save performance in Montreal. That's not a good formula for success. The Senators are among the bottom-eight in puck possession numbers, so this might be a good chance to get back on track in that area and take the load off their goaltender.

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Blackhawks release team statement, stand by name and Native American logo

Blackhawks release team statement, stand by name and Native American logo

In light of the news that MLB's Cleveland Indians and the NFL's Washington Redskins are considering name changes, the Blackhawks released a team statement on Tuesday standing by their name and Native American logo.

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The full statement reads:

The Chicago Blackhawks name and logo symbolizes an important and historic person, Black Hawk of Illinois’ Sac & Fox Nation, whose leadership and life has inspired generations of Native Americans, veterans and the public.

We celebrate Black Hawk’s legacy by offering ongoing reverent examples of Native American culture, traditions and contributions, providing a platform for genuine dialogue with local and national Native American groups. As the team’s popularity grew over the past decade, so did that platform and our work with these important organizations.

We recognize there is a fine line between respect and disrespect, and we commend other teams for their willingness to engage in that conversation.

Moving forward, we are committed to raising the bar even higher to expand awareness of Black Hawk and the important contributions of all Native American people.

We will continue to serve as stewards of our name and identity, and will do so with a commitment to evolve. Our endeavors in this area have been sincere and multi-faceted, and the path forward will draw on that experience to grow as an organization and expand our efforts.

Why Blackhawks won't be at a disadvantage facing Oilers in Edmonton

Why Blackhawks won't be at a disadvantage facing Oilers in Edmonton

The NHL and NHL Players' Association took a significant step forward on Monday, announcing that the two sides have reached a tentative agreement on the Return to Play plan and Collective Bargaining Agreement extension that also includes transition rules. It's not official until the owners and players ratify the entire package, but there's little reason to believe it won't get approved.

If all goes as planned, the qualifying round will begin on Aug. 1 in the two hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto. Each conference will stay in their respective regions, which means the Blackhawks will be anchored down in Edmonton.

The NHL was originally planning to send the Western Conference teams to the Eastern Conference hub and the Eastern Conference teams to the Western Conference hub to avoid giving a Return to Play club any sort of competitive advantage, but the league and players decided against that due to the geographical complications.

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So will the Blackhawks be at a disadvantage in their five-game play-in series against the Oilers on the Oilers' home surface? The simple answer is, no.

For one, there will be no fans in attendance and that's half the battle in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blackhawks may be considered the road team as the No. 12 seed taking on the No. 5 seed, but the only thing that's going to be different throughout the series is their jersey color.

Where the home-ice advantage would really come into play is off the ice, but the Oilers won't exactly be in the comfort of their own environment.

All 12 teams are required to stay inside the bubble — which the NHL is calling its "Phase 4 Secure Zone" — and any individual that leaves without permission may be subject to consequences up to and including removal. The team could also be punished in the form of hefty fines and/or loss of draft picks. That should be enough for players to take things seriously, in case there's any temptation.

But the overall point is, Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and the rest of the Oilers won't have the luxury of sleeping in their own bed or being in the comfort of their own home during off-days. They have to pack multiple suitcases and stay inside the designated boundaries that includes hotels, dining destinations, the arena, practice facilities and demarcated areas (indoor and outdoor), just like everyone else. That's how life would have been for the Blackhawks had Chicago been chosen as a hub city.

In some ways, this could actually play in the Blackhawks' favor. There aren't any expectations when you're the road team going into a game, let alone a series in this unique situation. The Blackhawks had nothing to lose to begin with, considering their playoff chances were all but over prior to the NHL suspending its season on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even though they had a better win percentage at home, the Blackhawks played some of their best hockey this season when they were on the road, so it wouldn't be surprising if they upset the Oilers by sticking to their road mentality.

“On the road, you’re kind of naturally an underdog," Connor Murphy said in February. "Going into those games, you just seem to rally with each other even more and have some more of that desperation, knowing they could gain momentum with a goal and or a big chance. When you have a little bit of that underdog mentality, I think that can be good, and it gives a little more fight and bite in your game.”