1. HELLO AGAIN
For the second time in three days, the Blackhawks will clash with Central Division foe Nashville. On Tuesday, the Blackhawks beat the Predators 4-1 and leapfrogged Minnesota and Nashville into third place in the division with 34 points. The Blackhawks enter Thursday’s showdown—the first time they’ll play in Bridgestone Arena ice since last season’s playoff matchup—having claimed at least a point in six of their last seven games. The Predators started the 2015-16 season with points in eight of their first nine games, but have cooled off in December with just three wins in the last eight contests.
2. DOUBLE THREAT
With back-to-back games on the schedule—the Blackhawks return home to host Winnipeg on Friday—Corey Crawford and Scott Darling will likely each see the ice over the next two games. Crawford is coming off a 36-save performance against the Predators in which he earned First Star honors. Crawford has won his last two starts and hasn’t allowed more than two even-strength goals in each of his last six appearances. As for Darling, his last two starts have been overtime losses, though he made 30-plus saves in both outings. In six starts this year, Darling has posted a 2-2-2 record with a .913 save percentage and 2.58 goals-against average.
3. THE LOTTERY SPOT
Many players have tried, but none have been able to lock down the left-wing spot on the top line thus far this season. But after a couple strong performances, Teuvo Teravainen could be the one to stick with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa in that highly coveted position. The Finnish forward tallied a goal and an assist Tuesday while skating 18:40, the second-highest ice time he’s had all season. In 24 games this season, Teravainen has six goals and six assists for 12 points. In 10 more games last year, he had four goals and five assists, so the expectation is that the increase in ice time and bigger offensive role will result in more point production from the 21-year-old.
4. DEPTH SCORING
The one knock on the Blackhawks this season is that they’ve been a one-line team in terms of goal production: Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov have combined to score 37 of the Blackhawks’ 78 total goals (47.4 percent). However, over the past few games the Blackhawks have gotten timely contributions from other lines. The third line opened the scoring on Tuesday when Dennis Rasmussen, in his first career NHL game, redirected an Andrew Shaw shot past Pekka Rinne for the first goal of his career.
“It’s the biggest day of the my life so far,” said Rasmussen, whose family flew in from Sweden to watch his debut.
Shaw went on to score a power-play goal on a great feed from Teravainen in the second period for his fourth goal of the year.
5. NOW JOSI HIM
Predators defenseman Roman Josi extended his point streak to five games with a beautiful assist Tuesday at the United Center. Josi scooped up the puck near center ice, then danced around Duncan Keith at the blue line before throwing a backhand pass to Eric Nystrom to tip into an empty cage for Nashville’s lone goal. Josi is a big part of a defensive unit that is not afraid to jump up in the offensive zone; Nashville captain Shea Weber, Ryan Ellis and Seth Jones are also in that same mold. Josi has amassed a team-high 21 points (7G, 14A), and Weber is close behind with 18 points, tied with the highest-scoring forwards on the team, James Neal and Filip Forsberg.
THE FINAL WORD
The Blackhawks started the week with wins over Winnipeg and Nashville, and they’ll have an opportunity to do the exact same thing in the second half of the week with rematches against both teams. Though it’s still early in the season, the Blackhawks place a high importance on Central Division games, often referring to them as “four-point games.” Aside from trying to sustain their depth scoring, look for Chicago to tighten up defensively in Thursday’s tilt after being outshot 37-24 at the UC. Special teams could also play a big role in Thursday’s rematch, as the Predators have allowed 22 power-play goals this season, tied with Winnipeg and Boston for the most in the league.