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Wednesday Night Rivalry

5 Reasons to watch Penguins-Blackhawks

Captains Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews playing at high level entering potential Stanley Cup Final preview

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / NHL.com Managing Editor

It has been exactly three years since the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks played in the snow at the 2014 Stadium Series at Soldier Field. But they won't have to worry about the weather this week for the Wednesday Night Rivalry game at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV).

As was the case three years ago, the Penguins and Blackhawks are among the NHL's elite. The Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup three times since 2010, and the Penguins are the reigning champions. Each is all but assured of being among the 16 teams that will compete for the Cup this spring, though the Penguins have to be stinging a little after their 3-2 loss at the Dallas Stars on Tuesday in a game they led 2-0 after two periods.

Here are 5 reasons to tune in for a matchup between two of the NHL's best:

 

Sidney Crosby

Crosby has spent the past year removing all doubt about who's the best player in hockey. He led the Penguins to the Cup and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in June, then powered Canada to the championship at the World Cup of Hockey 2016, again winning MVP honors. After missing Pittsburgh's first six games with a concussion, he has a League-leading 34 goals in 55 games. He's the engine that makes the Penguins go, and he manages to put up big numbers regardless of who his linemates are.

Video: PHI@PIT: Crosby buries Guentzel's slick dish

 

Jonathan Toews

Toews doesn't have as much individual hardware as Crosby, but has won the Stanley Cup three times, one more than No. 87, and he's starting to heat up offensively. Toews was the NHL's Second Star last week after scoring five goals and finishing with nine points (four goals, five assists) in three games, including a three-goal, five-point performance against the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Wild on Feb. 21. Toews has 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in a six-game point streak, and his offensive surge is a big reason the Blackhawks are pushing the Wild for first in the West and have to be regarded as a serious contender for another championship.

Video: STL@CHI: Toews uses slick hands, nets top-shelf tally

 

Evgeni Malkin

The biggest reason Pittsburgh's opponents can't gang up on Crosby is if they do, they risk giving Malkin too much time and space. With 62 points (26 goals, 36 assists) in 54 games, he's averaging more than a point a game for the sixth straight season. As with Crosby, Malkin can fit in with virtually any forwards on the roster; that includes playing on the wing with Crosby if need be. 

Video: PIT@DAL: Malkin chips opening goal past Niemi

 

Patrick Kane

Kane will not reach last season's career high of 106 points, but that doesn't mean he can't win the scoring title again. Kane has seven points (five goals, two assists) in his past four games and has moved into the top five in the League scoring race with 65 points (24 goals, 41 assists). The line of Kane, Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin has been one of the NHL's best all season, and Kane is another key reason the Blackhawks are among the League's hottest teams.

Video: STL@CHI: Kane picks the corner to finish the rush

 

Stanley Cup Final preview

It has been exactly 25 years since the Penguins and Blackhawks met in the 1992 Final, which ended in a four-game sweep by the Penguins. It's not hard to believe there could be a rematch in June. Each team checks almost all the key boxes a champion needs - superstar forwards, excellent offensive defensemen, solid goaltending, excellent coaching and the mental toughness necessary to win it all.

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