Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Things to Watch in a Big Weekend at Home
The Chicago Blackhawks are facing a big weekend as they prepare for Friday night's contest with the New York Islanders. The 'Hawks have a lot to play for in back-to-back nights in front of the home fans.
Chicago opened the 2013-14 season with a win, followed by shootout and regulation losses. The season is just over a week old, but a 1-1-1 mark is still nothing to write home about.
Despite the 'Hawks just getting the season under way, this is shaping up to be a weekend where four points would really hit the spot. Here are some reasons why Chicago should take a must-win attitude into this back-to-back weekend.
1. These Are 4 Winnable Points
The Islanders are coming off a 6-1 pasting of Phoenix on Tuesday and were tough opposition for Chicago in the team's last two meetings.
This is a game the defending champions are more than capable of winning.
Michael Grabner, Frans Nielsen and captain John Tavares have all gotten off to hot starts this season. Tavares centers Kyle Okposo and Matt Moulson on New York's top line.
Cal Clutterbuck is coming off a nasty skate cut and was activated Wednesday. He isn't definite for Friday. If he plays, he's sure to annoy the 'Hawks on the ice.
There are no guarantees in the NHL, but it isn't far-fetched to expect a pair of wins this weekend.
2. We Get Our First Look at Nikolai Khabibulin
The weekend will be a good time for coach Joel Quenneville to bring out his antique backup goalie. It will be Friday, as Quenneville has already announced, that Khabibulin will start against the Islanders.
A veteran netminder needs to be counted on to come into the atmosphere of a big Friday game and get the job done. That means a strong opening performance from the Bulin Wall.
Khabibulin officially begins his second tenure in Chicago facing a team that is scoring 3.67 goals per contest and getting an average of 28 shots on goal. The defense in front of him is vastly improved over what was in front of him in Edmonton. The 'Hawks need a solid evening from the 40-year-old goalie.
3. The Return of the Murdersaurus
John Scott, the Sabres' 6'8" enforcer, spent a year-and-a-half in Chicago, drawing both accolades, for his fisticuffs and the ire of fans, for his limited skating ability.
Scott appeared in the United Center with the Rangers back in the 2011-12 season, so this is not his first homecoming with the 'Hawks. He has only played in two of Buffalo's five games this season, so there is no guarantee he hits the ice, or anything else, Saturday night.
It might be interesting to see how the Chicago fans welcome Scott back. Brandon Bollig might have Scott in the back of his mind as he prepares for this weekend.
4. The Penalty Kill Can Show Us That the First 3 Games Were a Fluke
Chicago's penalty kill is the worst in the league. I pointed out a few issues that might be a factor for this earlier this week.
The 'Hawks can set a lot of minds at ease by making it a non-issue this weekend. If Chicago can keep penalties from hurting them on the scoreboard, it would go a long way to picking up four points.
It's a Big Weekend...and Joel Quenneville Knows It
The fact that Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville had his squad on the ice Thursday after Wednesday's loss in St. Louis suggests that he knows how important the next two games are to Chicago.
The 'Hawks had the Lightning in check until surrendering the lead in the third period and were looking at picking up at least a point against the Blues. It's early, but Quenneville knows his team can't leave points on the table on a regular basis.
Again, three games does not a season make, but there are two other teams in the Central Division off to hot starts. Colorado and the Blues both have yet to lose.
That will change, but closing the gap this weekend would be nice.