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.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

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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What changes should Blackhawks make to power play?

USA Today

What changes should Blackhawks make to power play?

In the month of October, no team scored fewer goals than the Blackhawks (25). Since the calendar flipped to November, no team has scored more goals than the Blackhawks (38).

Oh, how things can change in a month.

But the interesting part about the offensive turnaround is the fact the Blackhawks are doing it without having much power play success.

The Blackhawks have had 65 power-play opportunities this season and have converted on only nine of those attempts. That's a 13.8 percent success rate, which ranks 28th in the NHL.

Head coach Jeremy Colliton changed things up at the beginning of the month by dividing the units to spread the wealth rather than overload the first unit, the latter of which worked so well from December and on last season. 

It's time to go back to overloading the first unit.

Erik Gustafsson, who has three goals in his last four games, is finally looking like himself again after a 16-game goal drought to start the season. Patrick Kane is on a 10-game point streak. Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome have combined for 19 points (three goals, 16 assists) in the last 10 games. And Jonathan Toews has nine points (three goals, six assists) in November after having only two points (one goal, one assist) in October.

There's a newfound confidence within the group, especially the top players, and reuniting the five of them could translate into power play success. 

And while we're on the subject: It's also time to put Kirby Dach on one of the two power play units.

He has seven points in a five-game point streak and four goals during that span. He's noticeably getting more and more comfortable each game and it's reached the point where giving him more responsibility wouldn't be overwhelming for the 18-year-old, who's ready for more ice time.

The Blackhawks' power play is the one area of their game that hasn't been consistent this season. If they can get it back to the level it was at during the second half of last season, it's scary to think what the ceiling of this team could be because it doesn't look like their 5-on-5 game or elite goaltending will drop off anytime soon.

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Blackhawks receive Joseph Cramarossa from the Penguins in minor league trade

USA Today

Blackhawks receive Joseph Cramarossa from the Penguins in minor league trade

The Blackhawks have acquired forward Joseph Cramarossa from the Pittsburgh Penguins for forward Graham Knott in a minor league trade. Cramarossa will report to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

The 27-year-old had three points (two goals, one assist) in nine games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this AHL season. Cramarossa was the alternate captain during the 2018-19 in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, playing 56 regular-season games, scoring four goals.

Cramarossa was initially drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the third round of the 2011 NHL Draft, making his NHL debut on the Ducks in 2016. He played with the Ducks until he was traded to the Vancouver in 2017, playing in 10 games for the Canucks. He signed with Calgary as a free agent in September 2017 before being acquired by the Penguins in February 2018. Throughout seven seasons in the AHL (2013-2019) playing for the Norfolk Admirals, San Diego Gulls, Stockton and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Cramarossa recorded 72 points (32G, 40A) in 294 regular-season games.

Graham Knott is a 22-year-old forward selected by the Blackhawks in the second round of the 2015 NHL draft. Knott had eight goals in 126 career games with the IceHogs. The Blackhawks have now traded their top draft selections from 2017, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2009. Only Dach (2019), Boqvist (2018) and DeBrincat (2016) remain from this decade.

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