Five things to watch: Blackhawks vs. Sharks

Five things to watch: Blackhawks vs. Sharks
November 17, 2013, 4:45 pm
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There’s a certain ripple effect from spending a weekend in Nashville. The Chicago Blackhawks were feeling the effect of that late Saturday night, though their headaches were caused by a bad game at Bridgestone and not a binge on Broadway.

Sunday, however, comes like a big dose of aspirin — well, sort of anyway. The Blackhawks will get right back on the ice tonight, a great opportunity to forget last night’s 7-2 debacle against the Predators. But another headache looms in the San Jose Sharks. So grab another antacid while we examine the Five Things to watch for tonight.

1. Is Corey Crawford feeling a bit weary? After relieving an injured Nikolai Khabibulin on Saturday, marking his 18th appearance out of the 20 games the Blackhawks have played, he said no. “There’s no fatigue. You just go out there and play.” Coach Joel Quenneville said Crawford still would’ve played 16 of these first 20 — we assume he’s counting Khabibulin finishing the two games he could not. Still, an extra two full games of rest probably wouldn’t have hurt, and now Crawford’s back in tonight against the Sharks. We’ll see how the extra work affects him.

2. Defense needs to tighten. The Blackhawks are scoring plenty of goals, outside of last night’s game in Nashville, of course. The flip side of that is they’re giving up plenty, as they’ve allowed 15 in their last three games. They want to get back to their stifling style, pronto. “We’ve recently had a stretch of games where pucks are going in, but the last three or four games we don’t like how they’re going in our net," Quenneville said. "That’s more concerning than the other way around.”

[MORE: Khabibulin to injured reserve, Hossa out again for Blackhawks]

3.Hello, Joe. The Blackhawks could have their hands full with Joe Thornton tonight. The big Sharks center is on a seven-game point streak (1-8-9). Yes, it’s mostly assists. But whether he’s setting a teammate up or scoring himself, he’s going to be looking to add to that recent streak.

4.Kris Versteeg said he was nervous — “really nervous,” actually — about his (second) Blackhawks debut on Saturday night. It probably didn’t help that he was thrown on the top line when Marian Hossa was a late scratch with a lower-body injury. We’re thinking Versteeg shakes those off and has a much better game tonight, even if he’s probably on that top line again in Hossa’s second consecutive absence.

5. Who’s going to click? Let’s go with Crawford. The Blackhawks had a forgettable Saturday night in Nashville. So did he. The team wants to solidify things on defense, and it starts on net. Yes, Crawford’s been doing a lot of work lately. But young help is now here for the circus trip. So we think he’ll be extra motivated to play well before hitting the road.