Blackhawks

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Jets tonight on CSN before All-Star break

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Jets tonight on CSN before All-Star break

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Winnipeg Jets 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.

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. Scott Darling back in the crease.

Darling has earned the opportunity to start more games, and with a struggling Corey Crawford, Joel Quenneville is giving him just that. The Lemont native is 12-4-2 with a 2.21 goals against average, .928 save percentage and two shutouts in 21 games this season, and blanked the Bruins 1-0 in his last game by stopping all 30 shots. He also is familiar with Winnipeg, having turned aside 30 of 32 shots in a 2-1 loss at the United Center earlier in the year.

2. Marcus Kruger set to return.

Joel Quenneville said after Tuesday's game that Kruger likely would have played against Tampa Bay if Dennis Rasmussen, who's battling an illness, wasn't ready to go, but it appears he will draw back into the lineup tonight. Kruger missed 11 games with a hand injury, and centered the third line with Nick Schmaltz and Marian Hossa during Thursday's morning skate.

3. Jonathan Toews' resurgence.

The Blackhawks captain is heating up. Big time. He has two goals and four assists in his last two games, matching the point total he had in his previous 10 contests. He was all over the ice in Tuesday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, impacting the game on both ends of the ice. Toews contributing on the scoresheet is an added bonus — a huge one at that — to a team that's received its fair share of contributions from their second line of Artem Anisimov, Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin, as well as the rookies.

4. Patrik Laine back.

Winnipeg's rookie phenom was sidelined since Jan. 7 with a concussion, but returned Tuesday and picked up right where he left off by registering an assist and logging 21:52 of ice time. Prior to his injury, he led all rookies in goals (21) and points (37) by a fairly comfortable margin — although he had a few games in hand. Laine brings in a five-game point streak, with two goals and six assists during that span.

5. Power play drought.

The Blackhawks haven't had a problem putting the puck in the net lately, but they can't seem to find it when they're up a man. After an 0-for-3 night on Tuesday, the Blackhawks are now 0-for-12 on the power play in their last six games. Often times they look for the extra pass, but the way to break out of these droughts is by keeping it simple, and getting that net front presence. The Jets' penalty kill unit is ranked 26th in the league at 76.8 percent, so here's a chance to break the slump.

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Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

brandon_saad_ap.jpg
AP

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

Brandon Saad played a majority of last season on the first line, started this season on the second to change things up, got demoted to the fourth by the fifth game, and could find himself out of the lineup in the sixth.

Before the Blackhawks hit the ice for practice on Monday, the 25-year-old winger found a white jersey hanging in his stall. That's usually reserved for players who are injured — Andreas Martinsen (back) was the only other player wearing one — or players who are on the outside looking in, which appears to be Saad right now considering he was not part of the four-line rotation.

"I don't think anyone wants to be wearing white around here," he said. "But it is what it is and there's nothing you can do but keep trying to improve. It's their job to make the call to put the best team out there to win hockey games."

Known for being even-keeled through the ups and downs, Saad expressed disappointment about the possibility of being a healthy scratch on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. He didn't exactly show that emotion following his demotion to the fourth line, perhaps out of respect to the players he was playing with by noting how it brings balance.

But he did on Monday, and it was the first time we've really seen some sort of emotion out of him.

"Everyone makes mistakes and things aren't always going to go your way but to be out of the lineup, a little surprised today," Saad said. "But it is what it is. ... No one wants to be out of the lineup. That's never fun regardless of who you are."

When asked to pinpoint what's gone wrong, Saad said he wasn't the right person to ask.

"I think you got to ask him that," he said, referring to Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff. "It's his calls. For me, you can talk pros and cons as much as you want but just trying to go out there and compete and win hockey games. We've won a few here, I know every game has gone to overtime so they've been close. Nothing was said to me about lineup change or anything like that. You just come in and you see your jersey and you go out there and you play."

So Quenneville was asked.

"Just expect more," he said. "That's the situation."

Is his mindset in the right place?

"I think he's fine," Quenneville said. "His mindset is what it is. Whether it's urgency or passion, coming up with loose pucks in those areas is going to be the difference."

The Blackhawks sending a message shouldn't only be directed at Saad. It also serves as a reminder to his teammates and is important to note for the younger guys about earning your ice time.

"I don't really know where the coaches are coming from so I'm not going to comment on that," Jonathan Toews said respectfully. "But [Saad] has been doing some good things and I think it's good for all of us to know what's going on there because if [Saad] can get his ice time taken away, then so can a lot of guys, myself included. So we all want to play well and have team success."

The Blackhawks need Saad to return to form quickly because he's crucial to their overall success. There's no debate about that. It's why the thought of Saad, who played in all 82 games last season, serving as the 13th forward is frustrating for everyone involved.

It hasn't been a problem in the past, but now it's becoming one because of the Blackhawks' aspirations of getting back to the playoffs and their dependence on their top players.

"I don’t think it’s an issue," Quenneville said. "We just expect more out of him."

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.