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Game Preview: Blackhawks face preseason contest vs. Pittsburgh

by Brad Boron / Chicago Blackhawks
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Throughout the 2013 preseason, will preview each game with players to watch, notes and more.

The Blackhawks play host to Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight in the first of two 2013 preseason meetings.

Last Season: The Blackhawks and Pens did not face one another in the shortened 2012-13 season. Chicago fell 3-2 at Pittsburgh when the teams last squared off on Dec. 20, 2011.

Three Stars (players to watch):


7 p.m. CT.
VENUE: United Center

Ben Smith: Smith, one of Rockford's top goal scorers last season—his 27 tallies were second on the team behind only Jeremy Morin's 30—showed up on the scoresheet on Tuesday, netting a goal in Chicago's 2-0 win against Detroit. If he gets the call Thursday, he could be well on his way to full-time status with another performance or two like Tuesday's.

Marian Hossa: Head Coach Joel Quenneville said that the veteran winger would make his preseason debut against Pittsburgh. Though he mostly managed to stay in the lineup, Hossa was battling back issues during the Stanley Cup Final, and Thursday's game would represent his first non-scrimmage action since Game 6, and his first chance to test his recovery in game situations.

Brandon Saad: While Quenneville gave no indication whether Saad would play Thursday or not, it's likely that the coaching staff will want the 2013 Calder Trophy nominee to get a good amount of time at center this preseason. Saad got time on both the power play and penalty kill on Tuesday against Detroit, and his ability to play in all situations makes him valuable no matter where he skates.

Rising Star (must-watch prospect): Joakim Nordstrom spent time on the penalty-kill unit on Tuesday, filling in the spot next to Marcus Kruger that was formerly filled by Michael Frolik. It's still unlikely that he makes the NHL roster out of camp, but even Joel Quenneville noticed the "rapport" that Nordstrom shared with his countryman while playing a man down.

Know the enemy (opponent report): Sidney Crosby will travel to Chicago with the Pens on Thursday, so it's very possible that Blackhawks fans could see the former league MVP in action. Joining him will be goaltender Tomas Vokoun and forward Chris Kunitz, as well as top prospects Derrick Pouliot, Simon Despres and Beau Bennett.

Fun Fact: Current Blackhawks Senior Advisor to Hockey Operations Scotty Bowman coached the Penguins from 1991-93 and won the 1992 Stanley Cup championship by defeating the Chicago Blackhawks in four games.

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