NEW YORK – And we’re back.
While the Chicago Blackhawks’ Olympians quickly try to readjust to this time zone and prepare for another game, their well-rested, refreshed teammates are readjusting themselves. For them, it’s about shaking off the vacation rust and jumping back into the regular-season routine.
Regardless of how they spent the last three weeks, the Blackhawks will have to be ready on Thursday night when they face the New York Rangers. The Blackhawks ended the pre-Olympic break schedule much like they wanted to, playing consistent hockey. They’d like to hit the ground running again starting tonight.
So as we get back into regular-season mode ourselves, let’s look at the Five Things to watch for in tonight’s Blackhawks-Rangers game.
1. No Lundqvist? That doesn’t mean it’s no problem for the Blackhawks. Henrik Lunqvist will not start tonight for the Rangers. Backup goaltender Cam Talbot will get that honor. While the Blackhawks won’t have to face the elite Lundqvist, Talbot is not a goaltender to be overlooked. He sports a 10-5-0 record and a 1.79 goals-against average (.935 save percentage). The Blackhawks will need to attack him like they do other goalies: with a lot of shots and as much traffic as possible.
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2. Readjust quickly. We’ve talked to most of the 10 Blackhawks Olympians: a good deal of them said they’ve struggled to readjust to sleep schedules, jet lag, etc. But most also said that, once they get into the game-day routine, they’ll start feeling much better. Well, here we are, in game-day mode. We’ll soon find out if it has the desired affect for the 10 Olympic returnees.
3. It’s Peter Regin’s debut, part two. Regin got thrown into the fire in early February, getting traded to the Blackhawks and then playing the next night with them. Oh, and his debut came at second-line center. Regin will be there again tonight, with Patrick Kane on his right side. It’s a great opportunity for Regin, and one in which Quenneville wants him to use his instincts. “Watching him the last few days with Kaner, it seems like (Regin’s) looking for him a lot, so we’ll see how that evolves,” Quenneville said.
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4. Paging Corey Crawford…. Quenneville has said that the non-Olympic players, the ones who got all the rest, will be counted on to bring some energy, especially in these first few games out of the break. If there’s one player the team may lean on, it could be Crawford. He’s refreshed and he’s ready to play. Crawford gave them a big performance in his shutout over the Ducks prior to the break; the Blackhawks may need a similar outing tonight.
5. Who’s our pick to click? We’re going with Patrick Kane. We’re just sensing he wants to get back to regular-season form as quickly as possible.