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Wednesday Night Rivalry

5 Reasons to watch Blackhawks-Penguins

Wednesday Night Rivalry game could be preview of Stanley Cup Final

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / Managing Editor

Wednesday Night Rivalry: CHI@PIT

Coors Light Wednesday Night Rivalry Preview: CHI@PIT

NHL Tonight previews the Wednesday Night Rivalry matchup featuring the Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins

  • 07:43 •

Four weeks ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins came to United Center and lost 4-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks. They'll get a chance for revenge when the Blackhawks come to PPG Paints Arena for the Wednesday Night Rivalry game this week (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV).

The Blackhawks and Penguins have clinched berths in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but each is looking for more. The Blackhawks are closing in on the Central Division and Western Conference titles, and the Presidents' Trophy isn't out of the question. The Penguins are trying to catch the Washington Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference, and looking to finish ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets for second place in the division.

Here are 5 reasons to tune in for a game between two of the NHL's top teams:


Patrick Kane

Kane enters the game with 82 points (34 goals, 48 assists); he won't match his NHL-leading total of 106 points of last season, but has been among the League's hottest scorers the past few weeks. Kane has 17 points (10 goals, seven assists) in 14 games this month, including a hat trick in the win against Pittsburgh on March 1. He's a threat to make something happen every time he's on the ice.

Video: DAL@CHI: Kane shows off slick hands on shootout tally


Sidney Crosby

Crosby has removed all doubt about who's the best player in hockey. He helped the Penguins to the Stanley Cup and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in June, then powered Team Canada to the championship at the World Cup of Hockey 2016, again winning MVP honors. Crosby leads the NHL with 42 goals despite missing the first six games of the season with a concussion, and he's the biggest reason the Penguins have been able to survive a rash of injuries that have taken several regulars out of the lineup.


Jonathan Toews

Toews can't match Crosby's individual achievements. But he has won the Stanley Cup three times, one more than No. 87, and has perked up offensively after a slow start. Toews has seven points (three goals, four assists) in Chicago's past eight games and reached the 20-goal mark for the 10th time in as many NHL seasons. But the Blackhawks captain does more than just score. He's a leader on the ice and off, is annually among the League's best faceoff men (55.7 percent this season, 56.9 percent in his NHL career) and is on track to finish at plus-10 or better for the 10th straight season.


Unsung Penguins

Crosby gets most of the attention, but the Penguins wouldn't be where they are without the players who've picked up the slack for their injured teammates. Defenseman Justin Schultz has an NHL career-high 48 points (12 goals, 36 assists), helping to overcome the loss of Kris Letang for much of the season. Second-year forward Conor Sheary has 50 points (21 goals, 29 assists) in 55 games, and rookie forward Jake Guentzel, a midseason call-up, had 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists) in 35 games before he was sidelined with a concussion. The Penguins farm system and depth have kept them afloat despite a rash of injuries that has forced Pittsburgh to play without as many as eight regulars for some games.

Video: PIT@WPG: Schultz rips a slapper top-shelf for PPG


Stanley Cup Final preview

With the playoffs beginning in two weeks, it's not impossible to think the Penguins and Blackhawks could play in the Stanley Cup Final, just as they did 25 years ago, when Pittsburgh swept Chicago to repeat as champion. As was the case in 1992, the Penguins are the defending champion, but the Blackhawks have won the Cup three times in the past eight seasons, once more than Pittsburgh. These teams have been among the NHL's elite for the past decade and this should be one of the fastest-paced games of the season.

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