Arizona Coyotes

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Coyotes

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Coyotes

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Will Saad-Toews-Kane be a thing?

Trailing 3-0 going into the third period against Minnesota on Saturday, Joel Quenneville loaded up his first line (the new nuclear option?) with Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, and it was the first time we saw that trio together this season for a stretch that went beyond just a shift after a penalty kill.

When the three of them are on the ice together at 5-on-5, they control 71.26 of the shot attempts. The sample size is only 37 minutes spent together, but maybe it's worth a shot if it helps get the three of them going.

2. Clayton Keller.

If NHL players were allowed to participate in the Olympics this year, it would've been interesting to see whether or not the 19-year-old American would've made Team USA. 

Keller leads his team in goals (15), is tied for fourth among rookies in points (38) and logs the most ice time of any rookie forward (18:21). He's drawn comparisons to Patrick Kane coming out of the draft being a smooth-skating undersized forward with slick hands, so it should be fun watching the two go head-to-head.

3. Survive the first period?

The Blackhawks are one of the best offensive teams in the first period, where they have scored 54 goals, tied for third in the league. But the problem has recently come in the next two periods, and here's an opportunity to correct that.

The Coyotes have a minus-56 goal differential in the second and third periods combined compared to just a minus-6 differential in the first period. The Coyotes rallied from 3-0 down to beat the Wild 4-3 last week, so they're capable of catching you by surprise, but the numbers favor the Blackhawks as the game goes on.

Blackhawks hoping to unlock Anthony Duclair's full potential

Blackhawks hoping to unlock Anthony Duclair's full potential

The Blackhawks got out in front of the Feb. 26 trade deadline by acquiring forward Anthony Duclair and defenseman Adam Clendening on Wednesday in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes that sent forwards Richard Panik and Laurent Dauphin the other way.

This comes a week after it was reported Duclair requested a trade out of Arizona, and the Blackhawks didn't waste much time moving in. In fact, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman revealed Wednesday that he had inquired about the 22-year-old forward last year but the two sides couldn't come to an agreement. Talks picked back up 7-10 days ago and the deal "came together pretty quickly," Bowman said.

Duclair has 15 points (nine goals, six assists) in 33 games this season and is a pending restricted free agent on a contract that carries a $1.2 million cap hit, leaving the door open for a possible extension after the season which would be a win-win for everyone if he performs well enough to earn it.

He's a talented offensive winger who once registered 50 goals and 49 assists for 99 points in 59 games for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL. His best season in his young professional career came in 2015-16 when he compiled 20 goals and 24 assists in 81 games for the Coyotes.

But he hasn't gotten to that level since, and it was time for a change of scenery for both sides. And the Blackhawks are hoping to unlock his full potential.

"He's sort of a player that embodies what the NHL is all about now in terms of his speed and his ability to put the puck in the net," Bowman said. "I really like the way he skates, he brings the ability to be a really electrifying player. You have to give him some time. He's coming to a new team so we'll be patient with him. But that element of speed and youth is something that was really important to us."

After the trade, Bowman said he looked at the Blackhawks roster and noticed they have 13 players on the roster who are 25 years old or younger. By his count, they had just four last year around this time.

"In a matter of a year, we've been able to get considerably younger," Bowman said. "But we're still a team that wants to win. We're not playing for the future. But the game today is predicated on being able to skate. It's hard to play if you don't have the quickness and speed. A lot of the guys we've brought in recently bring that element to their game and I think it really meshes with the style Joel [Quenneville] wants to play.

"We want to play an up-tempo game and to do that you need guys on every line, not just on one or two lines. We're trying to get guys on every line, every D pair, that have great mobility."

Duclair certainly fits that mold as a player with speed and goal-scoring ability. His defensive game needs work, but look no further than Nick Schmaltz as a young, offensive-minded player who has become defensively responsible and has earned the trust of his head coach.

For a team scraping to stay in the playoff hunt, the Blackhawks simply lost patience with Panik and couldn't afford to continue waiting on him to produce at the rate he did last season.

The 26-year-old winger has 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 37 games this season, but he went 27 games without a goal before Tuesday and had been fighting to stay in the lineup after starting the season on the top line with Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews. It wasn't enough for a player that has one year remaining on a deal that carries a $2.8 million cap hit.

In trading Panik, the Blackhawks reduced their overall salary number by $1.6 million, according to CapFriendly.com, which they can use down the road to either set up another trade or simply use that flexibility for transactions (roster call-ups) throughout the end of the season.

In the big picture, acquiring Duclair is a low-risk, high-reward acquisition for the Blackhawks. Perhaps playing with a healthy combination of young and veteran skilled players, a handful of whom have three Stanley Cups to their names, behind a Hall of Fame coach can help bring out the best of his abilities. 

"He's got some upside," coach Joel Quenneville said of Duclair, who is expected to make his Blackhawks debut Friday at home against the Winnipeg Jets. "A couple opportunities here, coming here he's got to be excited about the chance to prove himself to be a regular, and there's opportunity to move up in the lineup as he goes along here. He certainly gives us a lot of speed and quickness and he's dangerous be if off the rush. So, I'm looking forward to see how he comes in our lineup and give him every opportunity to move up in the lineup as well."

Blackhawks trade Richard Panik to Coyotes

Blackhawks trade Richard Panik to Coyotes

A day after scoring his first goal since Oct. 21, Richard Panik is on the move.

The Blackhawks have traded Panik and prospect Laurent Dauphin to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for 22-year-old forward Anthony Duclair and Adam Clendening, the team announced Wednesday. No salary was retained, according to TSN's Pierre LeBrun.

The trade should come to no one's surprise, as Panik has been a victim of the healthy scratch multiple times this season.

The 26-year-old foward had the best season of his career last season with the Blackhawks, recording 22 goals and 22 assists. It earned him a two-year, $5.6 million extension this past May.

But things have been quite the opposite this season. Panik has struggled to make an impact, having just six goals and 10 assists in 37 games.

"He had a great year last year and probably hasn’t had the consistency he wanted or we did this year," Stan Bowman told reporters Wednesday. "But he still has a lot of good attributes to his game so hopefully he’ll do well there."

In 33 games this season, Duclair has nine goals and six assists. He is a pending restricted free agent with a $1.2 million cap hit.

"I really like the way he skates, he brings the ability to be a really electrifying player," Bowman said. "You have to give him some time. He’s coming to a new team so we’ll be patient with him. But that element of speed and youth is something that was really important to us."

A familiar face is also coming back in the trade.

Clendening was selected by the Blackhawks in the second round of the 2011 NHL Draft. In 2015, he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks for Gustav Forsling. The 25-year-old defenseman signed a one-year contract with the Coyotoes in July, but has yet to play this season.