Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to avoid season sweep vs. Jets tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to avoid season sweep vs. Jets tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Winnipeg Jets 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. One last crack.

In four meetings this season, the Jets have taken eight of eight points from the Blackhawks, with three of those wins coming at the United Center. In those games, the Blackhawks have been outscored 14-5, their most recent a 5-3 loss in which they squandered a third-period lead by allowing three unanswered goals. Chicago will gets its final stab at Winnipeg tonight, and look to avoid the season sweep.

 

2. Can new top line sustain success?

The first line of Nick Schmaltz, Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik was terrific in Wednesday's 4-3 overtime win over the Minnesota Wild. The trio combined for three goals and three assists, with Toews potting the game winner. The Blackhawks captain now has five goals and seven assists in his last eight games, matching his point total in his previous 26 contests. Getting contributions from this line is key. Let's see if it continues, and how long it lasts.

3. Is Corey Crawford back?

Before undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Dec. 3, Crawford was among the league's best goaltenders in many statistical categories. Since his return on Dec. 23, he hasn't been that great, owning a 9-7-1 record in 17 starts and finishing with an .894 save percentage in December. He turned in arguably his best performance since returning by stopping 35 of 38 shots in a 4-3 overtime win over Minnesota, stealing not only one point for the Blackhawks, but two while preventing the Wild to get an extra one. It would've been a four-point swing with a regulation loss to a team that leads the Central Division by five points and has two games in hand. 

4. Blackhawks power play heating up.

After going 1-for-20 (5 percent) on the power play in their previous eight games, the Blackhawks have scored at least one goal on the man advantage in their last three games, all of which have resulted in wins. They're 4-for-8 during that span, good for a 50 percent success rate. Their season total has improved to 18.9, which ranks 16th in the league.

5. So is Winnipeg's.

Like Chicago, the Jets have been cashing in on their power play chances as of late. They've scored a goal on the man advantage in four of their last five games, and it's helped them win three straight games for the first time all season. Winnipeg is 4-for-13 (30.8 percent) during that span, bumping their overall percentage to 18.6, a notch below the Blackhawks for 17th.

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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.