DENVER – The Chicago Blackhawks rebounded on Sunday, playing one of their best team games of the season without Marian Hossa. They’ll have to try and do it again tonight against the Colorado Avalanche, as Hossa will miss his third consecutive game with a lower-body injury.
So while the Blackhawks prepare to play without him and, hopefully see him return soon, we’ll break down Five Things to watch for tonight in the Blackhawks-Avs game.
1. Speed limit? Colorado is dealing with some injuries now, including Matt Duchene (oblique). Still, the Blackhawks know they’ll have some concerns with the Avalanche, optimum health or not. “Their speed. They have a lot of young guys with a lot of speed,” Bryan Bickell said. “Their transition game has changed from a couple of years ago.” And if nothing else, the Blackhawks have Saturday as a reminder of what happens when they might take an injured team for granted.
2. Playing without Hossa. The Blackhawks could have struggled again on Sunday night without Hossa, but they did just the opposite. The one thing this team does well when a star is injured is make up for his absence. That was evident on Sunday, when the Blackhawks were strong in every aspect of their game. They’ll need that again tonight against the Avalanche.
3. Keeping it simple. We’ve talked about the differences in the Blackhawks’ road game as opposed to their home one: less fancy stuff, less attempts at razzle dazzle, just simple, disciplined road hockey. The Blackhawks usually don’t have a problem with this, save for glitches like Saturday night. We’re guessing the lesson from that game is still fresh in their mind.
4. Beware of a fast Avs start. Colorado has outscored its opponents 17-9 in first periods this season. Obviously they’re going against a Blackhawks team that’s done well in firsts themselves (outscoring opponents 19-14). Still, Patrick Roy will have his Avs ready to strike immediately against his old (assistant head) coach Joel Quenneville.
5. Who’s our pick to click? Again, it would be easy to pick Patrick Kane because it’s his birthday and, well, because he’s Patrick Kane. But we’re going with Jonathan Toews. So there.