Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. 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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