Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Anaheim Ducks tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 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. Johnny Oduya's debut.
In an effort to strengthen their blue line, the Blackhawks re-acquired Oduya on Feb. 28, just one day before the trade deadline. But after being sidelined for more than a month with an ankle injury, the Blackhawks wisely decided to delay his return to make sure his conditioning level was back to 100 percent. He had logged 18:28 of ice time on Feb. 26, so he's healthy enough to play. But the Blackhawks played it safe with an important final month upcoming, and he'll finally make his much-anticipated debut (again) in Chicago tonight.
2. More balanced defensive pairings.
With the addition of Oduya and return of Niklas Hjalmarsson, who was dealing with an upper-body injury, the Blackhawks are as deep as they've been on the back end in years. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are reunited on the top pairing followed by Oduya and Hjalmarsson, a duo that was so effective during the 2015 Stanley Cup run. The third pairing is rounded out by Brian Campbell and Trevor van Riemsdyk, both of whom have played among the top four at different times this season but are better suited on the bottom unit. Everyone's in the right place.
3. A healthy lineup.
Nick Schmaltz, who has missed the last two games with an illness, will return to the lineup tonight and slot back into the top line with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik, a trio that has been one of the hottest in the league since February. Artem Anisimov appears to be healthy as well after returning to the lineup last week following a lower-body injury. That means the Blackhawks are as healthy as they've been all season, aside from the fact Scott Darling is out with an upper-body injury for the next few weeks. Let's see what this entire group can do together.
4. Ducks droughts.
Corey Perry has zero goals in his last 10 games, the third time he's had a scoring drought of at least 10 games this season, with his first going all the way up to 18 and second to 13. Ryan Kesler, Anaheim's second-leading scorer with 19 goals, has lit the lamp only twice in his last 23 games. And the team's power play is just 1-for-23 in their last 10, coming out to a 4.4 percent success rate. But the Blackhawks need to be careful. Both of these players are capable of exploding on any given night, and their power play unit is loaded with weapons. They're all due, so it's important not to give them an ounce of life with the risk of opening up the floodgates.
5. A sprint to the finish.
Starting tonight, there are 31 days left in the Blackhawks' regular season. They'll play 17 games during that stretch, including two back-to-backs. Luckily for the Blackhawks, they've played in only eight games the past 24 days, so they should be well-rested for the busy slate that awaits as they continue their pursuit for home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference.
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