Blackhawks ready to prove themselves against Coyotes

985749.png

Blackhawks ready to prove themselves against Coyotes

After their 5-2 victory in Los Angeles, the Blackhawks headed to Glendale, Ariz., where they'll face the Coyotes Sunday night. Catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet beginning at 8:30 with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

GLENDALE, Ariz. The Chicago Blackhawks first-round playoff series with the Phoenix Coyotes last season had a little bit of everything. Enough overtimes to fill a deadline writers nightmares, big hits some a little too big high drama, a good dose of venom and a couple of player suspensions.

Its intriguing stuff. And thanks to that six-game series that seemed so placid and harmless at the start, the Blackhawks and Coyotes are developing a little rivalry that continues tonight at Jobing.com Arena.

No, the Blackhawks-Coyotes isnt near the Blackhawks-Canucks matchups in terms of angst, bad blood and nastiness. OK, other than Blackhawks fans not being big on Raffi Torres, first for giving Brent Seabrook a concussion in the 2011 playoffs and then Marian Hossa last spring.

But theres still something there between the Hawks and Yotes, bred from the close and emotional series that led to another premature playoff end for the Blackhawks.

Ive always said if you play a team in the playoffs you all of a sudden have history with them. Even the next year, game by game, it gets more personal as it goes along, captain Jonathan Toews said. Theyll be ready to bounce back from their game (Saturday) and we have to do the same and be ready to play.

Patrick Sharp agreed.

Every time you face a team in the playoffs, theres always some bad blood, he said. Theyve got a lot of classy guys over there and theyre a respectful team. But theyre still the team that sent us home last year so we want to make sure we play our best.

For Hossa, the budding rivalry may take a bit of a backseat. His 2011-12 season ended in Game 3 with that Torres elbow to his head, and this is just his second game since then. Torres wont be playing tonight hes still serving seven more games from that 21-game suspension. And for Hossa, he doesnt look at this game as a hurdle to clear.

I dont think about it that way. Its just another game for me, said Hossa, who was asked about the potential emotional level tonight. To tell you the truth, I dont know what to expect. Im going to prepare as usual.

Andrew Shaw also had a front seat to last years series although he watched from afar for three of those games, his punishment for hitting Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith. He said this one could get feisty quick.

Every game gets a little snarly, he said. I just have to try to get under their skin, take pucks into dirty areas and hopefully contribute to the power play.

Blackhawks-Coyotes isnt Blackhawks-Canucks. But theres definitely some angst there that, as Toews said, could build with more matchups. Who knows if they could meet in the postseason again. Right now, the Blackhawks would settle for a little regular-season vindication.

Its the second game into the season and youre playing team that beat you in the playoffs, Shaw said. You cant wait to get at them.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Minnesota Wild tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 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. Road warriors.

The Blackhawks have won six straight games away from the United Center, and are looking to make it a seventh in Minnesota tonight. They've scored the game's first goal in four of those wins, and in the other two, overcame 1-0 deficits to beat Dallas 5-3 and Edmonton 5-1, the latter of which they scored five unanswered goals.

2. Corey Crawford vs. Devan Dubnyk.

Crawford hasn't quite been the same since undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Dec. 3, but he turned in probably his best outing since then in the Blackhawks' last meeting against Minnesota on Feb. 8 when he stopped 35 of 38 shots in a 4-3 overtime win. He essentially stole two points, and prevented the Wild from picking up the extra one. Across from him tonight will be Dubnyk, who leads the league in wins (32), goals against average (1.97) and save percentage (.934).

3. Jonathan Toews on fire.

After a tough offensive drought earlier in the season that lasted longer than expected, the Blackhawks captain has six goals and 10 assists in his last 12 games, and upped his point total to 37, which now ranks fifth on the team. In the last meeting against Minnesota two weeks ago, Toews had a three-point night and scored the game winner in overtime. 

4. Mikael Granlund among league's most underrated players.

File Granlund under the category of players who don't get enough attention. He has 17 goals and 36 assists in 58 games this season, and his 53 points is tied with Jeff Carter and Artemi Panarin for 13th in the NHL's scoring race. The next highest point total on the Wild is Eric Staal with 45, an eight-point gap between him and Granlund. The 24-year-old forward registered his first career hat trick earlier this month, and also had a 12-game point streak just two weeks ago.

5. Ryan Hartman's closing in on 15 goals.

In Saturday's 3-1 loss to Edmonton, Hartman defended his teammate by fighting an Oilers defenseman that was practically twice his size. He called it a "no-brainer" to stick up for Tanner Kero and did well in the scrap, but it led to an Oilers power play and 10-minute misconduct which didn't do the Blackhawks any favors. He responded in a great way Sunday by scoring the game's first goal that helped his team win 5-1 in Buffalo. The next goal he scores will be No. 15, which would give the Blackhawks six 15-plus goal scorers on the year. They had only four a season ago.

- Check out the latest stats and standings to make sure you’re ready for action

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

- NBC Sports App FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Blackhawks: All of the most recent news and notes

- See what Blackhawks fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Blackhawks Pulse

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks battle Wild on CSN; UIC hosts Green Bay on CSN+

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks battle Wild on CSN; UIC hosts Green Bay on CSN+

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Tuesday on CSN+: UIC hosts Green Bay

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

Addison Russell planning to become next Cubs superstar

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls trade Jimmy Butler?

Why Brett Anderson called Cubs fans ‘f------ idiots’ and loves the idea of pitching at Wrigley Field

Patience and perseverance: trying to make, and stay in, the NHL

Gio, Geo and Gio: White Sox spring training has its own version of 'Who's on First?'

Big Ten poll update: Purdue is conference's highest-ranked team as Wisconsin tumbles

Evanston more prepared to make a deep playoff run this March