Brandon Pirri will be on the fourth line and Corey Crawford gets the start when the Chicago Blackhawks host the St. Louis Blues tonight at the United Center.
The Blackhawks started their road schedule against the Blues last week, and they were not too happy about that result. And with that, here are five things to watch for in tonight’s game:
1. Start well, end better. The Blackhawks have been talking about this game since they lost to the Blues with 22 seconds remaining in regulation last week. They were angry and they were frustrated at getting zero points out of that contest. So their motivation tonight is already there: keep starting as they have, but finish a lot better than they did at Scottrade Center. “It definitely was a stinger,” said defenseman Sheldon Brookbank, who will play tonight in the place of an ill Michal Rozsival. “We played a pretty solid game and it’ll always be tight with them. So we want to be on the winning end tonight and we’ll do everything we can to do that.”
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2. Different Blues. Last year – and for a few years, really – the Blues haven’t had as much success scoring as they have on defense. Well, outside of a blanking to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, the Blues are finding their offense this season. Entering Wednesday, they’re averaging 4.2 goals per game, second best in the league behind the Sharks (5.00). They still have the defense and the goaltending, but the Blues’ offensive weapons are more noticeable this season.
3. Time for Bickell’s breakthrough? Bryan Bickell’s been given a prime opportunity on the Blackhawks’ top line but he has yet to cash in goal-wise. Bickell got some sage advice from Teemu Selanne – through Brookbank’s retelling – about how goal scoring is like a ketchup bottle: “once that first little bit out, it flows,” Bickell recalled Brookbank telling him. Obviously, Selanne’s a good one to get advice from in that department: “I think it put it in perspective for Bicks,” Brookbank said. “Just get that first one and go from there.”
4. Pirri’s turn. Brandon Pirri will be back in the lineup tonight, playing on the fourth line with Brandon Bollig and Marcus Kruger. Pirri was hoping he’d stick out of training camp but didn’t. Now that he’s back, he has to take advantage of every opportunity he gets in the lineup. Let’s see how the chemistry goes on that fourth line.
5. Penalty kill surge. The Blackhawks are improving their penalty kill on a game-by-game basis and are nine for their last nine on it. They’ll be tested on it tonight; however, as the Blues enter with the league’s fourth-best power play (6 for 20). This was the Blackhawks’ bread and butter last season, and after some early glitches on it, the kill is looking killer again. But they’ll have to be on their toes against an opportunistic Blues power play.