Hawks' two-game stretch could be springboard for postseason

Hawks' two-game stretch could be springboard for postseason
March 18, 2014, 12:45 pm
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So few games remaining, so much ground left to gain. The Chicago Blackhawks have just 14 games left in the regular season, and they’re looking to get their consistent game going as well as move back up in the division standings.

As it stands on Tuesday morning, the Blackhawks would still be facing the Colorado Avalanche on the road to start the posteason. Today starts an important two-day stretch, however, as the Blackhawks play the Philadelphia Flyers tonight and then host the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday. It’s a potentially big swing, depending on how the Avs fare, too — Colorado plays in Montreal tonight and in Winnipeg on Wednesday.

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But this is ultimately about the Blackhawks, who want to build off Sunday’s 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. They’ll have to do it tonight without Brandon Saad, who remains in Chicago nursing an upper-body injury. Will the Blackhawks take advantage of these next two days? While we wait and see, we’ll take a look at the Five Things to watch for in tonight’s Blackhawks-Flyers game.

1. Take the Flyers faithful out early. The Flyers are going to be a motivated bunch coming off back-to-back victories against the Pittsburgh Penguins this weekend. They’ve also been better at home lately, going 6-2-0 there in their last eight games. The Blackhawks will be playing in front of a typically passionate Flyers crowd, and they’ll want to silence that furor as quickly as possible tonight.

2. Don’t look past this game. This has nothing to do with Philadelphia and everything to do with the Blackhawks’ next opponent: the St. Louis Blues, who the Blackhawks host on Wednesday. Every game from this point on is big, every point crucial. The Blackhawks can’t get caught looking ahead against a Flyers group that would be happy to ruin the front half of their back-to-back.

3. Keep the captain rolling. Jonathan Toews has been stellar coming out of the Olympic Games. The Blackhawks captain has eight goals and an assist over his last seven games. With 27 goals, he’s just seven away from his career high set during the 2008-09 season. So much for the Olympics possibly wearing him out.

4. Get Patrick Sharp going. Well, we’re talking in the goal department, specifically. Sharp’s gotten consistent points — six assists in his last seven games — but he’s been sans goal since his score kicked off the Stadium Series game on March 1. Considering how Sharp’s never shy about shooting — he had seven shots on goal vs. Detroit on Sunday — it’s just a matter of time before he starts finding the back of the net again. How about against his old team?

5. Pick to click: Andrew Shaw. The shift disturber’s first career NHL game was in Philadelphia on Jan. 5, 2012. Shaw had a goal and a fight in that one, so we think he’ll be going for the historical reenactment tonight.