Tonight’s game at the United Center represents a finale of sorts.
It’s the Chicago Blackhawks’ last regular-season home game, but hardly the end of their pre-postseason work. They still want to try and get home-ice advantage for the first round, although that window is closing quickly. Still, as long as it’s open, the Blackhawks will try to wriggle through it.
The Blackhawks also want to head into the postseason playing their best, and despite missing Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, they’ve been doing pretty well these last few games. Tonight presents another tough opponent, however, in the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal has won 10 of its last 12 games as it sits third overall in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens, according to the Montreal Gazette, will be without a few players tonight: Travis Moen is injured, Douglas Murray is suspended and Carey Price, Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin are resting; Montreal hosts the New York Islanders on Thursday.
So while we open every window in the house because the temperature is finally conducive to do that, let’s look at the Five Things to watch for in tonight’s Canadiens-Blackhawks game.
1. Don’t underestimate a lighter Canadiens lineup. Montreal left a few folks at home, given they’re gearing for the postseason and have back-to-back games with Chicago tonight and the Islanders on Thursday. But the Blackhawks can’t take Montreal lightly. After all, they ought to know from first-hand experience that missing a couple guys doesn’t mean you can’t win.
2. Keep doing what you’re doing. The Blackhawks have found themselves a successful blueprint in the wake of their injuries: play hard, play for each other, bring traffic and grind games out. They have three regular-season games remaining including tonight’s contest, and every point is critical; don’t stray from the plan that’s working.
3. Beware of Mr. Pacioretty. One guy who won’t be missing from the Canadiens lineup is Max Pacioretty. Montreal’s left wing has been scorching lately, with 17 points (nine goals and eight assists) in his last 13 games. Might want to keep an eye on him, that’s all we’re saying.
4. Time for Brandon Saad to respond. There are some players who, upon receiving a healthy scratch, would mope, hang their heads and take the wrong attitude from there on out. We don’t see Saad being one of those guys. Saad’s a hard worker who, coming off his upper-body injury, hit a slump. He’ll take the have-a-seat message for what it was intended to be: a reminder that he can play much better. We say he rebounds accordingly tonight.
5. Our pick to click tonight is… Marian Hossa. The right wing has been good in the wake of the Blackhawks’ latest injuries and we see him getting a few more points tonight.