Five things to watch on CSN: Hawks at Avalanche

Five things to watch on CSN: Hawks at Avalanche
March 12, 2014, 11:45 am
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The Blackhawks and Avalanche will meet for their fifth and final time in the regular season tonight in Colorado. Catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet beginning at 8:00 with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

The revamped Central Division is missing some familiar faces this season, thanks to realignment. But one thing the division did not lose in the NHL’s revamping is its competitiveness.

The Chicago Blackhawks are surrounded by teams either gunning for them or teams that have passed them in the Western Conference standings. One of those teams lurking around is the Colorado Avalanche. The Blackhawks talked of their struggles vs. the Avs on Tuesday and they’ll try to solve them tonight when they play Colorado at the Pepsi Center.

[MORE: Blackhawks looking to snap out of funk against Avalanche]

Folks, we’ll be just like you tonight, watching how the Blackhawks do from afar. So while we get the chips and dips ready, let’s take a look at the Five Things to watch for in tonight’s Blackhawks-Avalanche game.

1. Back up your backup. Antti Raanta will start tonight, and it’s his first since Jan. 28. That’s a long time out of the net. Granted, Raanta is young and facing his teammates, even in practices and skates, is a great way to stay sharp. Still, he could very well be shaking off some rust in this one. The Blackhawks will have to be as sharp, perhaps even more so, around him to help the cause.

2. Take advantage of an injured Colorado squad. The Denver Post reports the Avs will be without two forwards tonight: P.A. Parenteau (4-6 weeks for a knee injury) and Paul Stastny (back), who’s had some good outings vs. the Blackhawks. While new players work their way into the Colorado lineup, the Blackhawks need to utilize their depth that’s been such an asset this season.

[RELATED: Blackhawks' Saad shining bright regardless of line changes]

3. When you get a lead, hold onto it. Yes, that’s simplistic and obvious; it’s also something that’s been a great problem against the Avs. It was tight in two of their contests this season and the Blackhawks had every opportunity to win both of those games. They didn’t. Enough with the points left dangling out there.

4. Keep taking advantage of that fourth line. We’ve rhapsodized about Brandon Bollig, Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith plenty this season, and for good reason. The Blackhawks’ fourth line has been reliable and consistent, garnering more minutes and responsibilities with their good work. That line was in on the scoring the last matchup vs. Colorado, and we think it’ll be key again tonight.

5. Our pick to click tonight is Duncan Keith. Just a hunch.