Emery saves Crawford, could start Friday in Ottawa

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Emery saves Crawford, could start Friday in Ottawa

If the Blackhawks were fully healthy and felt a little better about themselves after 12 losses in 16 games, youd have to think this game wouldnt have turned into the struggle it was.

But theyre not about to get picky two points in the standings is two points at this time of year, even against a team slumping perhaps worse than theyve been. And it came after an Uh-oh, here-we-go-again start.

A couple of the stars stepped-up after a surprisingly sluggish first period, considering what was at stake, after two of the five rookies kept them in it through 20 minutes. Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger connected to make it a 3-2 deficit going into the second, and Ray Emery stopped everything he saw but a double re-direct with two seconds remaining after taking over for Corey Crawford.

Patrick Kane scored for the second straight game and set up the first of Marian Hossas two goals in that middle period. They then hung on for dear life in the 3rd as Emery was clutch late, and will likely earn the starting nod Friday back in the place of his greatest success, Ottawa. He was also mysterious enough that the Senators cut him loose after backstopping them to the Stanley Cup Final five years ago.

While not entirely his fault in every instance, seven of the last 21 shots Crawford has faced have gotten past him, so dont be surprised if Emerys the man whos leaned upon these final 17 games.

Theyll definitely need to further step up their play over the next two weeks. The opponents in order after Friday: Sunday at Detroit, Tuesday at St. Louis, home against the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and the Blues, then back on the road to Dallas.

With their captains health remaining in limbo, Wednesday was a nice step. Now the Blackhawks will need to find a way to make bigger strides if theyre to hold their spot if not climb in the West.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Grab the first goal.

The Blackhawks have scored the game's first goal in seven of the last eight games, and of those seven, they've won six of them. Meanwhile, the Lightning have scored the first goal only 17 times in 48 games this season, and are 12-5-1 in those games. They're 9-17-4 when they allow the first goal, so getting out to a lead first will be important against a struggling Lightning team looking for signs of life.

2. Will the floodgates open for Jonathan Toews?

After a four-point game in a 4-2 win over Vancouver, the Blackhawks captain matched his point total over his previous nine games. He's up to 26 points on the season, which is now fifth among Chicago forwards. When Toews has offensive droughts, they usually last longer than they should. But when he gets hot, he gets extremely hot. Perhaps we'll see the floodgates open offensively.

3. A chance for the team lead in scoring.

With an empty-net goal on Sunday, Marian Hossa tied Artem Anisimov for the team-lead with 18 goals. Artemi Panarin is right behind with 17, and Patrick Kane isn't far either at 15. The Blackhawks had four 20-goal scorers last season, and haven't had more than that since the 2013-14 season. They're definitely on pace to hit four, but could they surprass that? Richard Panik, who scored another goal Sunday as well, is fifth with 11 goals while Ryan Hartman has 10. Toews is at eight, but a flurry after a drought could make things interesting.

4. The triplets reunited?

In an effort to jumpstart a struggling offense, Lightning coach Jon Cooper reunited the triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat that was so successful during their 2015 playoff run in their latest game, a 5-3 loss to Arizona. It's unclear whether they will begin tonight's game on the same line, but if not, it's worth watching throughout the game whether they do. The Blackhawks have been coming at opponents in waves lately, so Cooper could look to separate the three to distribute the scoring.

5. Take advantage on special teams.

The Lightning have racked up the fifth-most penalty minutes in the league, and own a bottom-10 penalty kill unit at 80.1 percent. The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team, and have converted on 17.9 percent of their power plays, which sits at 16th. But they haven't scored one on the man advantage in five straight games, going 0-for-9 during that span. Here's a chance to change that.

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TSN coaches poll: Wild favored to win West over Blackhawks

TSN coaches poll: Wild favored to win West over Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups since 2010, and have eliminated the Minnesota Wild from the playoffs three times from 2013-15.

But it's the Wild that NHL coaches believe will win the Western Conference this season as we approach the trade deadline.

In his annual midseason poll, TSN's Bob McKenzie surveyed 25 of 30 coaches to vote on multiple categories, such as the league's best player and the team most likely to win it all.

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According to the survey, 11 coaches predicted the Wild will win the West while the Blackhawks and Sharks tied for second with four votes.

As for winning the Stanley Cup, the Washington Capitals are the favorite, earning 10 votes, followed closely by the reigning champion Pittsburgh Penguins with eight. The Wild and Blackhawks rounded out the poll with three and two votes, respectively.

Joel Quenneville earned one vote as the NHL's best coach, which is three fewer votes than he had last year, despite this year being arguably his most challenging — and best — coaching job since arriving in Chicago, given the youth on the roster.