Niemi makes return to Chicago, Hawks face Sharks

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Niemi makes return to Chicago, Hawks face Sharks

Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010
12:15 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

The Chicago Blackhawks are back home, where theyve been on a run of success lately. Now theyll try and reverse another trend: losing to their former goaltender.

The Blackhawks will face Antti Niemi and the San Jose Sharks tonight at the United Center. Its the Sharks and Niemis first trip to Chicago this season, with the Cup-winning goaltender taking both decisions in San Jose. For Niemi, it was a different feeling sitting in the arenas visiting locker room.

It feels funny, he said. Its a special day coming back here.

The Blackhawks got 32 and 29 shots, respectively, in those first two games against Niemi, but too often they were one-and-done opportunities.

That has to change.

Weve got to get pucks and bodies in front of him, defenseman Brent Seabrook said. The less he can see the puck better for us. We have to make him fight harder to see (the puck), get screens.

Coach Joel Quenneville said the last game was tight there, anybodys game, very competitive. We just need more traffic at the net. First game was just OK; weve got to be better than last game, play the same way we did our last four home games.

The Blackhawks also have to get back to the simple game thats been successful for them lately, something that eluded them terribly in St. Louis on Tuesday. They also need to bring a physical element against a Sharks team that has had no problem doing it in the past.

With captain Jonathan Toews sidelined, the Blackhawks will look to others to fill on-ice duties and leadership. Coach Joel Quenneville said a third player will don the A on his uniform tonight, but wouldnt say who this morning.

Briefly

Fernando Pisani (sick) was not on the ice this morning and is out for tonight.

Marty Turco gets the start in net for the Blackhawks.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

Despite the Cubs ending their 108-year World Series drought, Miguel Montero made offseason headlines for all the wrong reasons when he complained about his role in the Cubs' 2017 championship campaign.

Montero criticized Maddon's communication skills, catching rotation and bullpen decision-making after the team's Grant Park celebration. Maddon brushed off the criticism, and last week at spring training Montero said he hadn't spoke with the Cubs' skipper.

That tension appears to be all but a thing of the past, as Montero posted this picture of him and his manager sharing a drink together sporting nothing but smiles.

It's safe to say Montero would describe his relationship with Maddon now as: #WeAreGood.

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.

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