CALGARY, Alberta – The Canadian portion of the Chicago Blackhawks’ circus trip is nearing its end. The temperatures have been rather pleasant and the Blackhawks have swept through the Great White North like a thresher through a cornfield.
But one last Canadian opponent remains before heading back to the states: the Calgary Flames, who have had some fun at the Blackhawks’ expense here in recent seasons. Will the Blackhawks make it a Canadian sweep, or will the Flames snap their three-game winning streak? We didn’t bring our Tarot cards to find the answer, so instead we’ll look at Five Things to watch for tonight.
1. Help a Finnish brother out: With Annti Raanta getting his first NHL start tonight, the Blackhawks don’t want to change too much to their game. They also don’t need to leave the kid hung out to dry. No allowing 45 shots like they did against the Flames last season when Ray Emery almost did have to stand on his head to get that victory. Help Raanta, keep a lot of shots away from Raanta, but don’t screen Raanta.
2. Get to Reto Berra: Now, about that other goaltender: throw a lot of pucks at him like last time but actually get some traffic and sticks and whatever else possible in his way. Despite his lack of NHL experience, Berra is another big goaltender in this league who will get most low shots and anything else he sees. Make life harder on him tonight.
3. Keep four lines going: And we include that fourth line of Brandon Bollig, Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith on that. That trio’s gotten some good points at key times and has been a big help on the Canada portion of this trip. Even if they don’t get points, as long as they’re getting solid minutes and giving the top lines a breather, they’ll be doing their job.
4. Score in the first 20 minutes: The Flames haven’t managed many first-period goals this season – 14 to be exact. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks have outscored opponents 22-18 in first periods this season. Actually, here’s a better stat: the Blackhawks are 14-0-3 when scoring first. See, all sorts of motivation to get on the board ASAP.
5. Who is our pick to click for this Thanksgiving eve? Marian Hossa: He’s healed off that lower-body injury (please see game in Winnipeg) and his wife is better after a health scare over the weekend. He’ll be back tonight, in more ways than one.