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Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks rematch with Flames tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks rematch with Flames tonight on CSN

The Blackhawks welcome the Calgary Flames back to town tonight, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins with Blackhawks Pregame Live at 7 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final horn to get analysis and player reaction on Blackhawks Postgame Live.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Can the Blackhawks crack Brian Elliott?

Elliott was sensational for the Blues in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last year against the Blackhawks, posting a .929 save percentage and a shutout to help dethrone the defending champions in seven games. The 31-year-old netminder struggled to find that same success early with the Flames, allowing 14 goals in his first three starts and entered last Monday's contest in Chicago with the worst save percentage in the league. And yet Elliott turned in his best outing of the year against the Blackhawks, stopping 31 of 33 shots and all seven attempts in the shootout to give the Flames a 3-2 win. He's allowed only two or fewer goals in each of his last four starts, so expect Elliott to be on his A-game once again.

2. Stay out of the box.

In last Monday's shootout loss, the Blackhawks committed five penalties against the Flames, who made them pay by scoring a pair of goals on the man advantage. Though the Blackhawks' penalty kill unit is slowly showing signs of improvement over the last two games, Corey Crawford owns the league's best save percentage (.976) when at even strength and is coming off a 32-save shutout. He gives them a chance to win every night, and ill-advised penalties are momentum-killers when it ends up in the back of your net.

3. Will special teams continue positive stretch?

A timely penalty kill can also be a momentum-builder, however. Look no further than last Friday when it sparked a comeback win over the Devils by killing off a late penalty in the third period, which then led to a four-minute power play in which the Blackhawks cashed in on to force overtime. They've scored two goals on the power play in each of their last two contests after going 0-for-12 in their previous three and have killed off five straight penalties. Is it more of a blip or are the Blackhawks finally turning the corner? 

4. Containing Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.

When Gaudreau and Monahan hit the ice, expect to see No. 19 in red out there a whole lot. These two rising stars formulate a dangerous offensive duo on the top line and can take a game over at any moment. Jonathan Toews' line was tasked with defending them in their first meeting, and expect more of the same this time around. 

5. Gustav Forsling expected to return.

Coach Joel Quenneville's bench was shortened during the last meeting against Calgary after Forsling left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury. The 20-year-old Swedish defenseman is expected to return to the lineup tonight, and should give the Blackhawks an extra boost in the transition game.

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Alex DeBrincat, Patrick Kane, Connor Murphy to participate in USA's Stars and Stripes Showdown

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AP

Alex DeBrincat, Patrick Kane, Connor Murphy to participate in USA's Stars and Stripes Showdown

In honor of the late executive Jim Johannson, who died unexpectedly in his sleep in January at the age of 53, USA Hockey is hosting a Stars and Stripes Showdown at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan on Sunday, Aug. 26 and three Blackhawks will be participating in it: Alex DeBrincat, Patrick Kane and Connor Murphy.

Kane served as USA's captain at the 2018 IIHF World Championship in Denmark this past May and set a new American record with 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 10 tournament contests, which earned him MVP honors. DeBrincat had one goal and eight assists while Murphy led USA with a plus-7 rating.

Other star-studded headliners participating: Connor Hellebuyck, Seth Jones, Dylan Larkin, Auston Matthews, Charlie McAvoy, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, James van Riemsdyk and Zach Werenski. It's a great group getting together to celebrate the life of Johannson, who was an instrumental part of USA Hockey's program for the last 18 years.

Tickets are being sold for $10 and $15, which you can purchase here. Doors open at 1 p.m. ET with the game starting at 2 p.m.

A few events that will occur throughout the game: a ceremonial puck drop, a live game-worn jersey auction, an online auction featuring game-worn jerseys and autographed NHL memorabilia, special raffles and an opportunity postgame to meet and greet select players and coaches. All proceeds will benefit both the Jim Johannson Legacy Fund of The USA Hockey Foundation and the Ellie Johannson College Fund.

Five games to circle: Blackhawks to appear on national TV a league-high 19 times in 2018-19

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USA TODAY

Five games to circle: Blackhawks to appear on national TV a league-high 19 times in 2018-19

Despite missing the playoffs for the first time in a decade, the Blackhawks will appear on national television a league-high 19 times during the 2018-19 season, NBC Sports announced on Monday. Eleven of them will appear exclusively on NBC or NBCSN, with the other eight on NBC Sports Chicago in the Chicago area.

Eight of the 19 games will also land on "Wednesday Night Hockey," which will replace "Wednesday Night Rivalry" as part of NBC Sports' most diverse exclusive schedule to date that will include a total of 109 games. 

Here are five games to circle from the 11 games that will be aired exclusively on national TV, in order of how they appear on the schedule:

1. The new-look Blues — Nov. 14 vs. St. Louis at 7 p.m. on NBCSN

There might not have been a team in the Central Division that had a stronger offseason than the Blues. After failing to secure a postseason berth for the first time since 2010-11, they went out a traded for top-six center Ryan O'Reilly, signed Tyler Bozak to ensure even more depth down the middle, and added power forwards Patrick Maroon and David Perron to round out their top-nine. Not to mention the offensively skilled Robby Fabbri will be returning to the lineup after missing the entire 2017-18 campaign with an ACL injury. It'll be a nice early test for the Blackhawks.

2. Three Cups vs. three Cups — Dec. 12 vs. Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. on NBCSN

Whenever the Blackhawks and Penguins get together it's always a fun battle to watch because there's so much firepower sharing the same sheet of ice: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews. That's five future Hall of Famers right there. There's also the fact that they are tied for most Stanley Cups in the salary cap era with three, adding some extra juice between two teams that don't often see each other.

3. Winter Classic — Jan. 1 vs. Boston at 12 p.m. on NBC at Notre Dame Stadium

For the sixth time in franchise history, the Blackhawks will appear in an outdoor game. But they haven't had much luck in those games, losing four of the previous five, including all three of their Winter Classic appearances. The Bruins are 1-1 in outdoor games and will look to break the .500 mark in a rematch of the memorable 2013 Stanley Cup Final — at least for the city of Chicago — and Original Six showdown.

4. The defending champion Capitals come to town — Jan. 20 at 11:30 a.m. on NBC

Any time the reigning champions visit your city, it's a game you know you can't take off. Especially since it's the Game of the Week. Alex Ovechkin fell one goal shy of hitting the 50-goal mark for the eighth time in his NHL career at age 32 last season, but it was still good enough to win his seventh "Rocket" Richard Trophy. More importantly, he scored 15 goals and added 12 assists in 24 postseason contests to help lead the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup and took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player of the playoffs while doing so. He's still the greatest goal scorer in hockey — perhaps even of all time — and that's a reason in and of itself why it's a must-watch, even though in his last game against Chicago he was held without a shot attempt for the first time in his NHL career.

5. Rekindling an old rivalry with Red Wings — Feb. 20 at Detroit at 6:30 p.m. on NBCSN

Ever since the NHL realigned the divisions in 2013-14, the Blackhawks and Red Wings get to see each other only twice per season — once at home and once on the road. No two teams in NHL history have squared off more than these two, so it's certainly been an adjustment. But fans know how deep this rivalry goes, and every time they do clash, there's a playoff-like atmosphere in the building and you can feel it through your television screen as well. This will likely be no different.

Check out the Blackhawks' full national television schedule here: