Five things to watch: Blackhawks vs. Flames

Five things to watch: Blackhawks vs. Flames
January 28, 2014, 5:00 pm
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CALGARY, Alberta – The Chicago Blackhawks are visiting their northern neighbors again, and are in a city where they’ve pulled out their share of close games.

That’s good for them, because hanging onto late leads or capitalizing on late chances has been one of their issues in this recent skid, er, slump, er, hiccup – oh, whatever you want to call it. Yes, the Blackhawks have broken the Flames’ hearts a few times in recent trips to Calgary, be it Ray Emery’s tremendous performance here last season or Patrick Kane’s sparking the team’s three unanswered goals/comeback victory this past November.

So while we glory in the fact that Calgary is much, much warmer than Chicago right now – wind chill, what wind chill? – let’s look at the Five Things to watch for in tonight’s Blackhawks-Flames game.

1.      Stop playing from behind. We’re speaking of here in Calgary, of course. Yes, as stated above, the Blackhawks have rallied to beat the Flames a few times, but they might want to stop tempting fate. The Flames will be looking to build on a two-game winning streak and sooner or later, they’re not going to give up those late leads.

2.      Respond, Bryan Bickell, respond. Bickell was benched on Sunday and he said Tuesday he’s gotten the message. Now it has to show. Again, this is a matchup that suits Bickell well. The Flames are a strong, physical group. They’ll give the Blackhawks a few knocks. Bickell would benefit himself and the Blackhawks greatly if he makes his presence known immediately tonight.

[RELATED: Bickell frustrated, but not insulted with benching]

3.      Get four lines going again. Brandon Pirri’s back at second-line center and Andrew Shaw returns to the checking line. And with the alterations, the Blackhawks are hoping to get that consistency through their four trios. During this recent slump, that fluidity through the forward groups hasn’t been there. They should get some of that back with tonight’s combinations.

4.      Capitalize on the power play. Yes, we’re back on this broken record. We’re not going to harp long on it, we’re just going to repeat it. The Blackhawks are receiving power plays; they need to score on them like they were earlier this season.

5.      Who’s our pick to click tonight? We’re going with Antti Raanta. We think he’s a sentimental fellow, and Calgary’s where he got his first NHL start and victory. We think he’ll repeat the performance.