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

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

The Blackhawks take on the Dallas Stars tonight, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins with Blackhawks Pregame Live at 5:30 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. Better start, stronger finish.

The Blackhawks scored 11 seconds into the first period in Saturday's 3-2 win, but allowed the Stars to get back into the game quickly by giving up two goals within 2:28 of each other. The Blackhawks also let their foot off the gas in the third period after regaining the lead in the second. In the first and third period, the Stars had a combined 40 shot attempts compared to the Blackhawks' 25. In the second period, the Blackhawks owned a 13-8 advantage in the shot attempt department. Look for a more well-rounded effort tonight.

2. Battle of the backups.

Scott Darling and Kari Lehtonen are expected to start in goal for their respective teams in the second of a back-to-back after Corey Crawford and Antti Niemi earned the starts in Dallas. Darling is 2-0-0 with a 3.38 goals against average and .900 save percentage in two games this season, both of which have been at the United Center. Dating back to last year, Darling owns an 8-2-2 record at home compared to 6-6-2 on the road. It's where he plays best. Lehtonen is 1-3-1 with a 2.65 goals against average and .900 save percentage, identical to Darling's, this year.

3. Can the Blackhawks' penalty kill unit stay hot?

After a dismal start to the season, the Blackhawks have now killed off 15 straight penalties and have looked good doing it. Their percentage still ranks at the bottom of the league, but they're certainly making progress and it's a big reason the Blackhawks have won five straight.

4. How will Andrew Desjardins fare in his season debut?

The Blackhawks' penalty kill unit is expected to receive a boost when Desjardins makes his season debut tonight. He missed the first 12 games with a lower-body injury and was activated from injured reserve before Saturday's contest with the intent of getting back in the lineup tonight. It should help alleviate pressure off some of the younger guys who have been asked to take on a larger role in his absence. 

5. Can Ryan Hartman build off best game of season?

Corey Crawford, Patrick Kane and coach Joel Quenneville all gave Hartman high praise for his game on Saturday. He scored a goal, registered three hits and logged 10:57 of ice time in a 3-2 win. It was hands down his best game of the season, and it comes at a perfect time as somebody will have to draw out of the lineup with Desjardins returning. Don't expect it to be Hartman.

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?


Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”