RALEIGH, N.C. – Here are five things to watch for when the Chicago Blackhawks take on the Carolina Hurricanes tonight at PNC Arena:
1. Sharp’s breakthrough? Patrick Sharp has been looking for that first goal of the season (200th of his career). Is tonight the night he comes through with it? Sharp and his wife, Abby, welcomed their second daughter on Sunday evening, and the left wing was back at practice on Monday morning. Afterward, he said how “it’s amazing, when you clear the mind, how good you can feel on the ice.” Waiting for a child is probably an anxious time, and no one would blame Sharp for having that looming large in his head during those first few games. So with wife and child healthy and here, it wouldn’t surprise us if Sharp ends up scoring one tonight.
[MORE: Hawks looking for third consecutive win]
2. Carolina not on their minds. Don’t know what it is about the Blackhawks playing in Carolina, but it hasn’t been so good for them. The Hurricanes have fared well against Chicago, especially at home where they’ve won six of the last seven matchups. The last time the Blackhawks were here, the Hurricanes blanked them 3-0. Now with that Stanley Cup target on the Blackhawks’ backs, Carolina will definitely be looking to improve that home mark against them.
3. Hossa’s due, too. Marian Hossa has two points through his first five games. So perhaps he’ll tap into his old Eastern Conference playing days against the Hurricanes. Hossa has 54 points in 49 career games against Carolina (23 goals, 31 assists). Yes, we know, most of that was probably when he was in the East himself but, hey, nothing wrong with rekindling the past.
[RELATED: Blackhawks' female fanbase is on the rise]
4. Blackhawks power play has, uh, power. The Blackhawks’ anemic power play of the past few years, so far, is the past. They’re 5 for 20 on it in the first five games, good for eighth overall in the NHL. They’ve collected a goal on it in four of those five games and look to continue it again tonight. What’s working for the Blackhawks on the advantage? “There’s more motion, more movement and more shooting,” coach Joel Quenneville said. The Hurricanes have the 15th-best penalty kill in the league right now, and it’s coming off a 3-for-5 performance against the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday.
5. Bickell finding consistency. Bryan Bickell was back on the Blackhawks’ top line on Saturday night and showed a little more of that physical side that the team needs him to have. If he wants to stay on that top line, he needs to continue that and punch in a goal or two. The top line has had some great opportunities and has capitalized on several of them. Bickell, however, remains goal-less through the first five games. Remember: that big contract comes with big expectations. Time for Bickell to start realizing them.