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Wednesday Night Rivalry

5 Reasons to watch Blackhawks-Blues

Kane heating up for Chicago; Tarasenko putting up early numbers for St. Louis

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / NHL.com Managing Editor

The Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues have met twice in the Stanley Cup Playoffs during the past four years, and each is on the way to proving it belongs among the class of the Central Division this season. The Blackhawks visit Scottrade Center for the Wednesday Night Rivalry game (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV).

This is the only game between the Blackhawks and Blues for exactly five months; they don't play again until March 18, then face each other three times in the final three weeks of the season. 

Here are 5 reasons to tune in:

 

Fast starts

The Blackhawks were swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Nashville Predators after finishing first in the Western Conference last season. But Chicago has quieted any doubters by going 4-1-1 in its first six games, with all six against opponents that qualified for the playoffs last season. The Blues (4-2-0) are one point behind the Blackhawks despite playing five of their first six games on the road; this is their first home game since Oct. 7.

 

Kane vs. Tarasenko

Forward Patrick Kane is showing no ill effects from the Blackhawks' decision to trade linemate Artemi Panarin to the Columbus Blue Jackets on June 23. Kane is tied for the Chicago scoring lead with eight points (two goals, six assists) and has looked right at home playing right wing on a line with Ryan Hartman (Panarin's replacement on left wing) and center Nick Schmaltz. Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko is the only player in the NHL who has scored at least 37 goals in each of the past three seasons, and he's well on his way to extending that streak. Tarasenko has four goals in the Blues' first six games and continues to be a threat to score every time he touches the puck.

Video: CBJ@CHI: Kane fires top-shelf goal to open scoring

 

Corey Crawford

Crawford, 32, is off to a tremendous start, going 4-1-0 with a 1.39 goals-against average, and his .960 save percentage (seven goals allowed on 174 shots) is the best in the NHL among goaltenders with more than one start. He has allowed more than one goal once in his five starts despite facing an average of 34.8 shots.

 

Alex Pietrangelo

The Blues defenseman is playing some of the best hockey of his career. Not only is Pietrangelo tied for the St. Louis lead with eight points (two goals, six assists), he's tied for second in the NHL in average ice time at 26:29. Pietrangelo plays in all situations and is on pace to easily improve on his offensive numbers last season, when he had 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists). He gives the Blues an All Star-caliber player on defense for nearly half of every game.

Video: STL@PIT: Pietrangelo snipes one in from the high slot

 

'Eddie O' is back

Viewers will hear a familiar voice on the NBCSN telecast: Analyst Eddie Olczyk will be in the broadcast booth, just more than two months after it was revealed he was diagnosed with colon cancer and was having treatment to remove a tumor. He and longtime partner Mike "Doc" Emrick will work together for the first time this season. Olczyk, who was diagnosed on Aug. 8 and is six weeks into a 24-week treatment program, told USA Today on Monday he will work more games as his health permits.

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