ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Blackhawks didn’t have to think about Saturday’s lousy loss to the Minnesota Wild for long because they’re right back at it against them tonight. Question is, can they play better against them tonight?
Saturday was a forgettable one for the Blackhawks, for sure, one that Bryan Bickell called “one of our worst games of the year.” So the Blackhawks will try to shake that one off and redeem themselves. With that in mind, let’s see the Five Things to watch for tonight.
1. Solidify that defense.
Remember when the Blackhawks had that ridiculous goal differential last season? That’s long gone, partly because they’re struggling to score on one end. But it’s more about them allowing too much on the other. After 11 goals allowed in the past two games, don’t be surprised if the Blackhawks are playing a much tighter game this evening.
2. Brandon Pirri’s shot.
All right, you Rockford IceHogs fans, you wanted Pirri at second-line center, you’ve got him. The 22-year-old gets his chance tonight, as he’ll center Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane. Pirri said he’ll do what he usually does, just translate it to the new spot. “Bring that energy, work ethic, get the puck and let Kaner and Saader do their things.” How long this will last depends on Pirri. With Michal Handzus hurt (upper body), the Blackhawks are back to their revolving-door tryouts at second-line center. Pirri could grab it with a complete-game effort.
3. Patrick Sharp clicks tonight.
Call it him being due, call it me just guessing, or call it a potential byproduct of Sharp going with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa on the top line tonight. He finished Saturday night’s game there, and he’s way overdue to get going with all the shots he’s been taking. Let’s say it happens tonight.
4. A better Corey Crawford.
He wasn’t alone in the Saturday night mess but there’s no doubt Crawford could have been better against the Wild. He’s the last line of defense and has to show that more tonight.
5. More Morin.
Coach Joel Quenneville was very happy with Jeremy Morin’s game on Saturday night, and he needs to keep building off that third-line role this evening. Morin showed an energy that didn’t come through enough to earn him a spot out of training camp – and he almost got that goal -- and Quenneville noticed. “He had the puck a lot, he wanted it, he brought good pace to his game, focus to what he was doing as well,” Quenneville said. “We saw an overall improvement to the last time we saw him. It looks like he wants to take the next step and stay here.”