After falling to the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Blackhawks are returning to the United Center tonight to host the Columbus Blue Jackets. Catch all the air on Comcast SportsNet beginning at 6:30 with Blackhawks Pregame Live.
The sun is shining, the temperatures aren’t ridiculously cold and ice and snow are melting. They’re lovely signs in a winter that hasn’t had many of them.
Speaking of spring, the Chicago Blackhawks are looking to spring new life into their offense, which has been a bit tepid lately. They’ve scored eight goals in their last four games, which doesn’t sound so bad; but five of those came on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, so, as we said, tepid.
So coach Joel Quenneville put the Blackhawks lines in a blender again, as we discussed in this morning’s updates. They’ll get their chance tonight when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team the Blackhawks have beaten regularly, but only by one-goal margins in all four meetings last season. Corey Crawford will start for the Blackhawks while Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to do the same for Columbus.
Will the line changes spark the offense again? Hey, it’s always wait-and-see on that one. While we wait and enjoy seeing that strange-looking yellow orb in the sky, let’s look at the Five Things to watch for in tonight’s Blue Jackets-Blackhawks game.
1. Get clicking again. The Blackhawks’ offense didn’t sputter at all in the weather on Saturday night, when we figured it would be as sluggish as that puck’s movement through the snow. It didn’t help that Semyon Varlamov was his usual stingy self on Tuesday night for Colorado, but the Blackhawks’ offense has to break out of its doldrums regardless of opposing goaltender. They’re hoping line changes spark them. “We felt it was time to do something different,” Quenneville said of the line changes. “Hopefully it can give us some offense.”
2. The Shaw remains the same. Andew Shaw is getting a big promotion tonight, playing on the top line. While Shaw certainly needs a boost in his own game, he cannot change his style just because his playing partners have changed. “When you’re playing with guys on top lines or move up the ladder, you don’t want to change your game, be making plays you’re not accustomed to,” Quenneville said. “Be direct, get around the net but don’t try to make more plays because you’re playing with top guys. Play your game; that’s why you’re up there.”
3. Take steam out of Columbus’ sail early. The Blue Jackets are playing good hockey out of the Olympic break, winning three of four since resuming play. And this may be a surprise to you: Columbus has more first-period goals (60) than the Blackhawks (57). So Chicago needs to jump on top fast and try to add to it as they go. Looking at second periods, Chicago has 82 goals this season while Columbus has 55.
4. Don’t take Columbus lightly. Columbus isn’t in the Central Division anymore and the Blackhawks have had great success against them. Still, games haven’t been easy against the Blue Jackets. As we wrote above, each of their four matchups last season was decided by one goal. The Blackhawks are trying to keep pace and need points, regardless of which conference their opponent plays. Don’t overlook ‘Lumbus.
5. Pick to click. We’ve been swinging and missing a lot on our picks to click each game. We’re still going to keep swinging. Let’s go with Jonathan Toews, who has 34 points in as many career games against the Blue Jackets.