Five Things to Watch: Hot start needed vs. Kings

Five Things to Watch: Hot start needed vs. Kings
December 15, 2013, 4:45 pm
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The weather outside is frightful. Well, not frightful so much as cold. Frightful may be more appropriate to describe the Chicago Blackhawks’ Saturday outing against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

But that was yesterday. The Blackhawks are back home and hopeful to leave that lousy performance in the past. But they’ll get a big test the Los Angeles Kings, who enter tonight’s game on a six-game winning streak.

So while you throw another log on the fire or another marshmallow in your cocoa, let’s look at the Five Things to watch in tonight’s Kings-Blackhawks game.

1. Score early – if you can. Yes, the Blackhawks have had some great first periods this season offensively. Problem is, the Kings have been tough to crack in the first 20 minutes. Los Angeles hasn’t allowed a first-period goal in 18 consecutive games, an NHL record. The Kings have allowed just 12 first-period goals all season. Contrast that with the Blackhawks, who have scored 31 first-period goals this season. Does the Blackhawks’ proficiency or the Kings’ stinginess prevail in this first period?

2. Rebound, Mr. Raanta. Antti Raanta hasn’t had many bad moments in his brief stint with the Blackhawks. He had a rough one on Saturday – pretty much everyone in a Blackhawks uniform did. Now we’ll see how he rebounds from a tough outing and a premature pull from the game. “In the games he’s been in, no matter how the game’s been played or whether there’s been (a goal) he felt he could’ve had, he’s bounced back,” Quenneville said of Raanta. “He’ll fight for pucks, he’s competitive, he moves forward. We’ll see tonight.”

[UPDATES: Raanta back in net for Blackhawks]

3. Special-teams showdown. The Blackhawks’ power play has been a thing of beauty this season. It’s ranked fifth in the NHL and has scored at least one goal in their last eight games. The Kings’ penalty kill, meanwhile, is also fifth in the NHL. They have killed 30 of the last 32 penalties they’ve taken. Let’s see how each fares tonight.

4. The Blackhawks have usually fared well in the second half of back-to-backs. After going 10-1-1 in the second half of back-to-backs last season, they’re 6-0-2 in their second halves thus far this season. One in particular stands out: after taking a 7-2 drubbing in Nashville on Nov. 16, the Blackhawks beat the San Jose Sharks 5-1 here the following evening. Food for thought.

5. Who’s our pick to click tonight? It’s nowhere to go but up for pretty much every Blackhawk after Saturday night’s game, but we see Marian Hossa having a very noticeable evening.