Blackhawks

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks make final stop at Joe Louis Arena tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks make final stop at Joe Louis Arena tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Detroit Red Wings 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. Last stop at The Joe.

For one last time, Chicago and Detroit will rekindle its rivalry at Joe Louis Arena, which has been the Red Wings home since 1979. The team will move into the new Little Caesars Arena next season. Notable games between the two at The Joe include Game 5 of the Western Conference Final in 2009 that eliminated the up and coming Blackhawks from the postseason. They would get revenge in 2013 by rallying from a 3-1 series deficit to beat Detroit in its building in Game 6, and then closing the deal at home in Game 7 en route to a Stanley Cup. 

2. Pair of 2014 first-round picks square off.

For the first time in their young NHL careers, Dylan Larkin and Nick Schmaltz will go head-to-head in a battle of 2014 first-round selections. Larkin was drafted at No. 15, five picks before the Blackhawks took Schmaltz at No. 20. Larkin made his debut a year before Schmaltz, and was among the league's best rookies in 2016 when he compiled 45 points in 80 games, but has struggled during his sophomore campaign — as has his entire team — with 22 points in 63 games. Schmaltz enters with 19 points in 44 games this year, with 12 of those points coming in his last 10 games.

3. Another back-to-back for Corey Crawford? 

Before this month, the last time Crawford had started in two games in as many days was Dec. 19-20 in 2015. Now he'll do it twice in a week. He did just fine in the second of a back-to-back last Saturday, stopping 32 of 35 shots in a 5-3 win over Nashville. And coming off a four-day break before Thursday's game, Crawford should be well-rested to handle another start less than 24 hours later.

4. Win at the dot.

In Thursday's 1-0 loss to Anaheim, the Blackhawks won only 41 percent of their faceoffs against the No. 1-ranked team at the dot. Tonight, they'll play a Red Wings club that's just as good as the Ducks in that area. They're the fourth-best team at the faceoff circle, winning 52.4 percent of their draws this season, led by Frans Nielsen, who owns a 54.7 percentage. The Blackhawks rank 23rd with a 48.4 percentage, led by Jonathan Toews, who's at 56.9 percent.

5. Score first.

The Red Wings have scored the game's first goal in only 26 of their 65 games this season, the third-fewest total in the league. They've also given up 71 goals in the opening frame; only Colorado (73) has allowed more. That's not very good company. The Blackhawks have the third-most wins when scoring the first goal of the game with 30. That'd be a good way to get back on track after getting blanked by the Ducks last night.

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Oilers, Blackhawks' play-in round opponent, release training camp roster

Oilers, Blackhawks' play-in round opponent, release training camp roster

Sunday afternoon, the Edmonton Oilers released their Phase 3 training camp roster. Training camps begin on Monday for teams competing in the NHL's 24-team playoffs under the league's Return To Play program. 

The Blackhawks, who were at No. 12 in the Western Conference at the time of the NHL pause on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will face the No. 5 Oilers starting Aug. 1 at Edmonton in a best-of-five qualifying round. 

Related: Oiler's Mike Green opts out of NHL's Return To Play program

Edmonton invited 33 players to attend their Return To Play camp.

Forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl headline the team's roster. Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith are among the five goalies listed.

Western Conference teams will head to Edmonton's ICE District hub to prepare for the postseason tournament on July 26.

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How Blackhawks' Corey Crawford's career prepared him for Oilers series

How Blackhawks' Corey Crawford's career prepared him for Oilers series

When the Blackhawks signed Vezina trophy finalist Robin Lehner to a one-year deal last offseason, many thought that would be it for Corey Crawford. They thought Lehner would run away as the No. 1 goalie in Chicago and Crawford would disappear.

Those who still doubt Crawford, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Hawks, haven't watched his career very closely. 

Just as he battled to lead the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup championship in 2015 after suffering an off-ice lower-body injury and just as he battled back to be a reliable last line of defense after multiple concussions the last couple seasons, he battled for the Hawks' net this season. 

Related: How will long layoff affect goalies in NHL's 24-team postseason?

NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes thinks it's that experience of battling and repeatedly finding his game after long layoffs from injuries that could make him a dangerous opponent for the Edmonton Oilers in the best-of-five qualifying round in the NHL's 24-team postseason kicking off Aug. 1 at Edmonton, assuming Crawford is the Hawks' starting goalie. The Blackhawks begin their training camp for the postseason on Monday.

"For somebody that hasn't gone through (injuries) before, there's so many unknowns and then maybe there's question marks and the mental elevator starts creeping up at times in ways that aren't helpful," Weekes, a former NHL goalie, told NBC Sports Chicago over the phone. "But the fact that he's had that experience in battling back from injury and coming back a long way and having extended layoffs, this isn't foreign to him. 

"So in that respect, it should be beneficial in a weird way and also give him the chance to heal up and rest up even more by way of this extended pause. I think that those things play in his favor. Those things should be playing in his favor for sure."

Related: How Blackhawks can beat Oilers with 'wealth of success' in qualifying round

This year, Crawford competed hard for the No. 1 goalie role. Leading up to the NHL pause on March 12, he had made 39 starts (16-20-3) and had a goals-against average of 2.77 with a .917 save percentage before the Hawks traded Lehner to the Vegas Golden Knights ahead of the trade deadline. With the Blackhawks, Lehner made 31 starts (16-10-5) and had a goals-against average of 3.01 and a .918 save percentage. Both tenders' numbers were hurt by an often struggling Hawks defense this year.

"I've always been a huge advocate of Crow. Crow's had an excellent run in Chicago," Weekes said. "I think the biggest challenge for him, which we all know, which isn't a state secret, (there's) just been some health challenges and he always battles back. Crow's a guy that'll battle and he's been able to come a long way back and rediscover his game, which is hard to do after layoffs, let alone multiple ones. 

"And I think this year, once he got back, talking to their goalie coach in Jimmy Waite and you got to credit Jimmy because he's put in so much work to be able to regroup Crow, numerous times. So this season specifically, when he first started, it was a little bit of a slow start as expected because he had such an extended layoff. 

Related: What's Blackhawks' key to victory over Oilers in NHL play-in series?

"But, I really think with them having Robin Lehner, it really helped because they didn't have to throw Crow right into the fire. And then Crow hit his stride and he's playing really well. ... He's played really well, coming down the stretch he looked excellent as well and that's great news for the Hawks because they're going to need him, especially in a shorter series in this play-in round against Edmonton and the fact that Crow has the experience that he does, he's played in huge games. 

"He's played in, obviously, Stanley Cup (finals). He's a winner, he's not afraid of the big stage. He's not afraid to play in a place like Chicago, he thrives on that and not to mention, internationally for Team Canada. I think where they're concerned, as far as his ability and his talent, he just looks like himself right now, which is great news for the Hawks and I know that his teammates have a lot of confidence in him so as long as he's able to... I know he's been on the ice, as long as he's healthy and feeling good they've got a good shot because he's been there before and he's done it before. 

"It's a unique opportunity for him and for his team, but he can lean on that experience of having played in big spots like the Stanley Cup Final and playoffs for years. That could be an advantage for the Hawks actually in that respect."

It's not clear who will start in net yet for the Oilers. Mikko Koskinen was 18-13-3 this year with a 2.75 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage and Mike Smith was 19-12-6 with a 2.95 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage. 

Although some of their numbers may measure up to Crawford's, neither goalie's journey can compare to his.

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