Blackhawks

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks take on Hurricanes tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks take on Hurricanes tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Carolina Hurricanes 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. Teuvo Teravainen returns to Chicago.

It will be a former Blackhawks reunion at the United Center tonight, the big name being Teravainen, who was instrumental in the team's 2015 Stanley Cup run. He enters the game with a five-game point streak, and has nine goals and 11 assists in 37 games this season, as he returns to Chicago for the first time since being traded to Carolina in the offseason along with Bryan Bickell. Former Blackhawks Klas Dahlbeck, Joakim Nordstrom and Viktor Stalberg are also all expected to suit up.

2. Scott Darling's second crack against Carolina.

Darling is likely to earn the start in the second of a back-to-back, and it'll be against the team he last faced in Carolina. He stopped 25 of 28 shots (.893 save percentage) in a 3-2 loss last week, but should fare better this time around. Darling is 6-2-1 with a 2.09 goals against average, .933 save percentage and one shutout in 10 games at home compared to 4-2-1 with a 2.77 goals against average and .904 save percentage in eight games on the road.

3. Here comes the top PK unit.

On Thursday, the Blackhawks faced the worst penalty kill unit in the league in the Buffalo Sabres. Tonight, they'll play the best. The Hurricanes have killed off 88.5 percent of their penalties this season, a success rate that would be the best since the New Jersey Devils finished the 2011-12 campaign with an 89.6 percentage. Carolina has hit a mini bump in the road, however, going 13-for-18 (72.2 percent) on the penalty kill in its last nine games.

4. Patrick Kane returning to MVP level?

After going pointless in his previous two games, Kane had a three-point effort in Thursday's 4-3 win over Buffalo, and scored the overtime winner for his 48th career game-winning goal. He has retaken the team-lead in points with 40, and ranks fifth in the NHL, trailing Connor McDavid by five for the league-lead. Kane has 12 points in his last 10 contests, but it still feels like he hasn't really hit his top gear yet — or maybe his 106-point season set a new unfair expectation. Perhaps a performance like Thursday's will be the beginning of a run that propels him back near the top of the NHL leaderboard as he aims to take home the Art Ross Trophy for the second consecutive season.

5. Vinnie Hinostroza promoted to top line.

Spencer Abbott's audition on the first line didn't go quite as planned. He logged only 8:34 of ice time in his season debut, and was demoted to the fourth line in the third period of Thursday's game. Vinnie Hinostroza joined Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa on the top line to finish the game, and is likely to start there tonight. Hinostroza has a season-high five shots on goal in last night's 4-3 win against Buffalo, and will look to anchor that left-wing spot for the time being.

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Alex DeBrincat joins the Blackhawks All-Decade Team

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USA TODAY

Alex DeBrincat joins the Blackhawks All-Decade Team

Throughout the 2019-20 season, NBC Sports Chicago will be unveiling its Blackhawks All-Decade Team. The roster will feature the 14 forwards, 7 defensemen and two goaltenders that made the biggest impact on the franchise from the 2010 through 2019 seasons.

Less than two and a half seasons was all we needed to see from Alex DeBrincat, a highly-skilled and crafty winger for the Blackhawks, who's usually looking to shoot instead of pass. 

DeBrincat was one of the biggest steals from the NHL Draft in recent years. The Hawks taking him in the second round, No. 39 overall, of the 2016 draft changed the way teams selected players.

There's been less hesitation for GMs to pick forwards around DeBrincat's height (5-foot-7) if they're point-producing machines with strong vision and skating. Right out of the gate, the 21-year-old recorded 28 goals for his rookie campaign during the 2017-18 season and followed it up with 41 last year.

"The Cat" has seen a dip in production tallying 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 32 games so far this season, but expect that to pick up.

DeBrincat has utilized his size in being able to sneak by defensemen and find open areas in the offensive zone like the left circle, where he's rifled in a lot of his goals with the Hawks. The Farmington Hills, Michigan native has 151 points (77 goals, 74 assists) in 196 games with Chicago.

He hasn't hoisted the cup or even played one playoff game yet with the Blackhawks, but if/when he does reach the postseason in his career, he'll be a reason why his team got there and will surely be a difference maker.

Alex's chemistry (and interesting friendship) with old Erie Otter (OHL) pal Dylan Strome, as well as with Patrick Kane, amplify the forward's strengths and make him even more fun to watch. 

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Struggling Blackhawks still trying to find a path forward

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AP

Struggling Blackhawks still trying to find a path forward

ST. LOUIS — One year ago today, the Blackhawks were enjoying an off-day after snapping their second eight-game losing streak of the season with a 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Adjustments were still being made under new head coach Jeremy Colliton, but there was at least some optimism that light would be at the end of the tunnel once they all got on the same page.

The Blackhawks have an off-day on Friday, but they’re in a much different place this time around. And not in a good way.

After losing for the ninth time in 12 games (3-7-2) and third straight (0-2-1), the Blackhawks are making standings watching irrelevant in Chicago in a year where it shouldn’t be. Their playoff chances are slipping away quicker than an odd-man rush and nobody wants to start looking ahead to the 2020 NHL Draft class because they shouldn’t be in this position again.

The inconsistency issues are real, the injuries continue to mount, the losses are getting uglier and the schedule is only getting tougher. The Blackhawks aren’t just losing hockey games. They’re not even giving themselves a chance. 

In their last six losses, the Blackhawks have been outscored 29-11 for a minus-18 goal differential. They’ve given up at least five goals in four of them and have one regulation win since Nov. 17.

And it’s hard to see how it can get better.

The easiest in-season change to make when a team with playoff expectations is underperforming is to change the voice and message the players are listening to. But the Blackhawks played that card last season.

In 2015-16, the Blackhawks deservedly earned a pass for running out of gas in the first round after coming off a season in which they captured a third Stanley Cup in six years.

In 2016-17, the Blackhawks called being swept in the first round by Nashville as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference a "wake-up call" and promised changes.

In 2017-18, the Blackhawks pointed to Corey Crawford’s season-ending injury in December as a reason for their second-half spiral.

In 2018-19, the Blackhawks preached patience after making a coaching change for the first time in 10 years.

In 2019-20, there is no excuse. The Blackhawks had another long offseason to get it right and Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were coming off career statistical seasons at age 30. The roster is better but the product on the ice hasn’t changed.

The tide eventually might turn for the Blackhawks, but right now it's difficult to see a path for how it will.

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