Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks aim to stay hot vs. Canucks tonight on CSN Plus

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks aim to stay hot vs. Canucks tonight on CSN Plus

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Vancouver Canucks tonight on CSN Plus 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. Jonathan Toews heating up again.

The Blackhawks captain went through a difficult stretch offensively towards the middle part of the season, and broke through when he had one goal and three assists in a 4-2 win over Vancouver on Jan. 22. Since then, only Brad Marchand (35) and Patrick Kane (32) have had more points than Toews (31). He extended his point streak to four games with a two-goal effort in Sunday's 6-3 victory over Colorado, and will look to keep it going tonight.

2. Canucks banged up.

The Canucks have lost six straight games, and it's not helping that players are dropping like flies as the season winds down. Loui Eriksson remains out with a leg injury. Erik Gudbranson (wrist) has been out since December. Brendan Gaunce (upper-body injury) and Jacob Markstrom (food poisoning) didn't travel to Chicago. Nikolay Goldobin is battling an illness. And Markus Granlund, who ranks second on the team with 19 goals, has been shut down for the season to undergo wrist surgery. They're a vulnerable group right now.

3. Take advantage on special teams.

Special teams hasn't been a kind area for the Canucks this season. Their power play is the third-worst unit in the league at 13.8 percent, and their penalty kill unit ranks 26th with a 77.6 percent success rate. The good news for the Canucks is that they're one of the least-penalized teams, but when they do go down a man, it's often trouble. They're 3-for-6 on the PK in their last three games, having allowed one in each of them.

4. Nick Schmaltz showing improvement at the dot?

Since moving to center for the injured Artem Anisimov, Schmaltz is 10-for-50 at the faceoff circle, which comes out to be a 20 percent success rate. His season percentage has slipped to 28.9, by far the lowest total among players who have taken at least 200 attempts. He showed some improvement in that department Sunday against Colorado when he went 5-for-15 (33.3 percent) after going 5-for-35 (14.3 percent) in the previous three games. Progress.

5. Richard Panik approaching 20 goals.

With a goal on Sunday, Panik increased his career-high goal total to 19; his previous season-high was 11, set in 2014-15. One more goal puts him at 20, which would make him the sixth Blackhawks player this season to reach the 20-goal mark. Ryan Hartman isn't far away, either, from potentially making it a seventh. They had only four 20-goal scorers last season. 

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Blackhawks make another change, fire Rockford coach Ted Dent

Blackhawks make another change, fire Rockford coach Ted Dent

Ted Dent was another longstanding member of the Blackhawks' organization. On Tuesday, he was the latest to be let go.

Dent, head coach of the Rockford IceHogs for the past six seasons, was fired on Tuesday morning. Dent spent a total of 11 years in the organization; he was the IceHogs' assistant coach for five seasons before taking the head coaching job for the 2011-12 season.

Just over a year ago, the Blackhawks gave Dent a three-year contract extension that was set to run through the end of the 2018-19 season.

"The Chicago Blackhawks thank Ted for all of his contributions throughout his tenure with the organization," Blackhawks general Manager Stan Bowman said. "He played a major role in helping a number of players reach the NHL level with the Chicago Blackhawks, many of whom became Stanley Cup champions. We wish Ted and his family the best."

The IceHogs didn't have the depth this season they had in previous years, and they struggled all season en route to a 25-39-9-3 record. The struggles got worse after the March 1 trade deadline, when the Blackhawks sent Spencer Abbott and Sam Carrick to the San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks AHL affiliate). At the time, Abbott led the IceHogs in points with 35 (15 goals, 20 assists) and Carrick was second with 28 points (11 goals 17 assists).

After the two were traded, the IceHogs went 4-12-1.

It's the second consecutive day in which the Blackhawks fired a member of their organization's coaching staff. Mike Kitchen, the Blackhawks' assistant coach since 2010, was fired on Monday. Kitchen and head coach Joel Quenneville have been friends going back to their NHL playing days, when the two were teammates with the Colorado Rockies and the New Jersey Devils. Kitchen was also part of Quenneville's coaching staff in St. Louis.

Blackhawks fire assistant coach Mike Kitchen

Blackhawks fire assistant coach Mike Kitchen

When Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman addressed the media on Saturday, he said that there would be change. That started on Monday when assistant coach Mike Kitchen was fired.

The move came five days after the Blackhawks were swept out of the first round by the Nashville Predators. Bowman said in a statement that, “we believe this decision is best for our organization moving forward. Mike had an impact on two different Stanley Cup championship teams during his tenure in Chicago. We appreciate his many contributions and wish he and his family success in the future.”

Kitchen has been a member of coach Joel Quenneville’s staff since 2010. The two go back to their playing days, however, when they were teammates with the Colorado Rockies and also the New Jersey Devils. Kitchen was Quenneville’s assistant when the two were with the St. Louis Blues and when Quenneville was fired as Blues coach midway through the 2003-04 season, Kitchen was promoted to head coach.

As part of the Blackhawks’ staff Kitchen’s focus on special teams, mainly the penalty kill. That kill finished the regular season 24th overall in the league, although that has to come with an asterisk. The penalty kill started the 2016-17 season so poorly that it was never going to get too far out of the basement. It did get stronger as the season wore on, and it was fourth overall during the Blackhawks’ short stay in the playoffs.