It’s more of the Eastern Conference tonight for the Chicago Blackhawks, and a reunion with an old friend when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs at the United Center. So as we preview tonight’s game with Five Things to Watch, you can guess what No. 1 is going to be.
1. Return of The Rat. Dave Bolland returns to the United Center for the first time since Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. One game later he would be the Blackhawks’ hero, scoring that game- and Cup-winning goal. Bolland should receive a great reception from the UC faithful. After that, he’ll probably be irritating the Blackhawks to no end, even though ‘Hawks players doubt Bolland will antagonize them.
2. Paging Mr. Shaw. Andrew Shaw is one of several Blackhawks still looking for his first goal of the season. Coach Joel Quenneville said one of the Blackhawks’ issues with lack of scoring is not getting those greasy goals, those rebound scores. Shaw can score those type of goals, and needs to start doing so.
[RELATED: Hawks make line changes to shake out of funk]
3. Leafs A-OK on the road. Toronto’s off to a great start this season and that includes on the road, where they’re currently 3-0-0. Part of that success could be due to their power play, which is 4-for-13 (30.8 percent) away from the Air Canada Centre. So don’t count on the Leafs being intimidated by the (formerly dubbed) Madhouse on Madison. Then again, the Blackhawks haven’t lost to the Leafs in Chicago since Feb. 12, 2003.
4. Show some fire. The Blackhawks have had some great starts and tough third periods in several games this season, but they lacked all around on Thursday against the St. Louis Blues. Quenneville pronounced the Blackhawks’ performance “awful,” and it was hard to argue that. The Blackhawks need to light that fire again, and have a strong 60-minute performance that’s eluded them in this early going.
5. Get that early lead. OK, this is one category in which the Blackhawks have been consistently good this season. This goes back to their first periods, which, for the most part, have been stellar. The Blackhawks are 3-0-0 when they lead after the first period, so if they can capitalize against the Leafs early, Toronto will be waiting a little longer for that victory in Chicago.