Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Predators in Game 1 tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Predators in Game 1 tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Predators in Game 1 tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage starts with Pregame Live at 6 p.m. 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. The importance of Game 1.

According to Elias, teams that win Game 1 in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoffs series hold an all-time series record of 447-204 (68.7 percent). The Predators have never won a playoff series in franchise history when losing the first game (0-7) while the Blackhawks have gone on to win the series 11 of 12 times under Joel Quenneville when winning the first game. Getting off to a good start is crucial.

2. How will rookies handle playoff spotlight?

The Blackhawks will be starting four rookies in Game 1 with Ryan Hartman, John Hayden, Tanner Kero and Nick Schmaltz each getting their first taste of postseason action. These aren't just guys playing small roles; they've all had a big hand in the team's success this year. While some of them can lean on their big-game experience from college or at a different level, the Stanley Cup playoffs are clearly a different beast. It may take a little bit of time to shake the jitters and get comfortable.

3. Corey Crawford vs. Pekka Rinne.

Crawford and Rinne are both solid goaltenders, but there's a (big) difference between the two of them. When the playoffs roll around, one guy gets better and the other tends to go the other way. Crawford has a 2.37 goals against average and .918 save percentage for his career in the regular season, and a 2.26 GAA and .920 save percentage in the postseason. Rinne has a 2.38 GAA and .917 save percentage for his career in the regular season while his playoff numbers fall to 2.51 GAA and .912 save percentage. This could end up being the deciding factor in the series.

4. Health concerns in Nashville.

With Artem Anisimov (leg) cleared to play in Game 1, the Blackhawks are entering the playoffs as healthy as can be. The Predators, on the other hand, are dealing with a pair of injuries up front. Calle Jarnkrok (15 goals) and Colin Wilson (12) are two of the team's 12 players who have scored at least 10 goals this season, and both might be unavailable tonight due to lower-body injuries. We'll find out for sure at game time, but these would be tough losses. They'll need all hands on deck to take down the Blackhawks. 

5. Beware of shorthanded goals.

The Predators are an average team in the penalty kill department with an 80.9 percent success rate, but they're dangerous. They led the league with 12 shorthanded goals, with Viktor Arvidsson scoring five of them. Those are absolutely deflating for teams on the power play, and huge momentum-boosters for teams on the scoring end of them. The Blackhawks must be cognizant of that fact.

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Blackhawks sign defenseman Michal Kempny to extension

Blackhawks sign defenseman Michal Kempny to extension

Michal Kempny was in and out of the Blackhawks lineup last season but he’ll likely get a bigger opportunity this coming season. On Saturday, he was assured of coming back to get that chance.

Kempny and the Blackhawks agreed to a one-year extension, the team announced on Saturday morning.

“Michal’s style of play is an asset to our defense,” general manager Stan Bowman said in a statement. “He is the type of player who will continue to improve now that he has transitioned to the National Hockey League. We look forward to his continued development on the ice for the Blackhawks.”

Kempny was part of a very crowded blue line last season — he was one of eight defensemen at the start of it — and played 50 regular-season games. He recorded two goals and six assists in those contests but did not play in the Blackhawks’ four postseason contests. With Johnny Oduya and Brian Campbell likely not returning, however, Kempny should get a bigger opportunity this season.

The 26-year-old Kempny also had two goals and an assist in eight games for the Czech Republic team at the 2017 World Championship.

Blackhawks announce plans for NHL Draft Fan Fest

Blackhawks announce plans for NHL Draft Fan Fest

With exactly a month to go until Chicago hosts the 2017 NHL Draft for the first time ever, the Blackhawks and league announced Wednesday their plans for Fan Fest held outside the United Center on June 23 and 24.

A handful of Blackhawks players and alumni will be in attendance and made available for photo opportunities, as will the Stanley Cup. Fans will also be able to explore the NHL Centennial Fan Arena, "a 53-foot museum truck with an innovative interior featuring more than 1,000 square feet of interactive digital displays, original video content, one-of-a-kind historical memorabilia, unique photo moments and a social media wall," according to the press release.

A full list of activities, special guest appearances and schedule will be posted at a later date.

Friday's events will run from 3 to 9 p.m. while Saturday's festivites will go from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Parking Lot C, north of the United Center.

Additional passes for the weekend will be made available to the public starting June 9. For more information, visit chicagoblackhawks.com/fanfest.