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3 Chicago Blackhawks To Watch At Rexall Place

By Colin Likas
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You might find it interesting that I put the name of the Edmonton Oilers’ arena in the title to a post about the Chicago Blackhawks. Sure, the Blackhawks will be playing there tonight, but what significance does that hold? A fair bit, it turns out.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus, this is the last game the Blackhawks will play at Rexall Place, which opened in November 1974. Edmonton has a new arena coming, and it’s set to open for the 2016-17 season. Rexall is the second oldest arena currently used by an NHL team (the Rangers’ Madison Square Garden opened in 1968), and it is also among the league’s smallest. So the Oilers are upgrading.

It’d be nice for the Blackhawks to end their time visiting Rexall Place with a victory, and that seems a distinct possibility tonight. The men in the Indian Head are coming off a 4-1 victory against Calgary on Sunday and will begin their six-game circus road trip with tonight’s affair. The Blackhawks lead the three-game season series against the Oilers 1-0, having taken a 4-2 decision at the United Center two Sundays ago.

Let’s see how the teams are expected to line up tonight, starting with the Blackhawks.

Marko Dano-Jonathan ToewsMarian Hossa

Artemi PanarinArtem AnisimovPatrick Kane

Andrew ShawMarcus KrugerTeuvo Teravainen

Brandon MashinterTanner KeroRyan Garbutt

Duncan KeithNiklas Hjalmarsson

Trevor van RiemsdykBrent Seabrook

Michal RozsivalTrevor Daley

Corey CrawfordScott Darling

The defensive pairings aren’t set in stone, but we know Joel Quenneville doesn’t like to mix things up too much coming off a win. Unfortunately, that means the relatively useless Mashinter gets to keep playing while Andrew Desjardins thinks about what he’s done (not score?). Crawford was the first goaltender off the ice at the morning skate, so he’ll start tonight. This group has posted eight goals in its last two outings, and with sieve-like defensemen and goaltenders on the opponents’ side, that number could rise to 12 in three — or more — tonight.

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Taylor HallLeon DraisaitlTeddy Purcell

Benoit PouliotRyan Nugent-HopkinsJordan Eberle

Matt HendricksMark LetestuNail Yakupov

Lauri KorpikoskiAnton LanderIiro Pakarinen

Darnell NurseAndrej Sekera

Oscar KlefbomMark Fayne

Brandon DavidsonEric Gryba

Anders NilssonCam Talbot

No Connor McDavid tonight, as he’s recovering from a broken clavicle. This team’s top two lines have some firepower, and a majority of the team can keep up with the ’Hawks in a track meet. But, the team defense and goaltending has just been rough. On the blue line, the Oilers are asking youngsters like Nurse and Klefbom to take on major roles in the defense before they’re ready. The same can be said for Griffin Reinhart, who for some reason wasn’t listed on dailyfaceoff.com’s most-recent Oilers lineup. I’d say there’s a fair chance he plays tonight unless he’s experiencing some sort of injury or illness, in which case he’d slot in for Davidson.

Nilsson appears to have taken the starting goaltender job from Talbot, who has been putrid since the Oilers acquired him from the Rangers in the offseason. Nilsson has been somewhat steadier (.902 save percentage to Talbot’s .890), but neither option is really desirable for the Oilers at this point.

So, let’s see which three Blackhawks we should keep an eye on tonight.

Nov 12, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) looks to pass the puck against the New Jersey Devils during the first period at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Toews

A team’s captain is frequently expected to set the tone for a game no matter the situation, but with a six-game trip kicking off tonight, Toews needs to get the guys going early to get the time away from the UC started on the right foot. Whether it’s winning battles for the puck in the corners, getting up close to Nilsson and firing away or even laying a big hit, Toews can set the tone for this entire roadtrip tonight. It would be nice to see him escape from the extracurriculars that have seemingly followed him in recent games, so expect him to pile up shots tonight whenever possible. Even if Edmonton throws its top defensive pairing at the Toews line, that really doesn’t amount to much, so this could be a night for Toews and linemates Dano and Hossa to feast.

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Marcus Kruger

Without the benefit of last change, I’m curious to see how Q deploys the Shaw-Kruger-Teravainen unit tonight. Teuvo has four goals and five assists while Shaw has a goal and three assists so far this season. Meanwhile, Kruger has been kept pointless while taking primarily defensive assignments, as is normal for him. Of course, you don’t utilize Teuvo in an entirely defensive way, so Kruger could see a golden opportunity tonight to break his early-season point drought. Again, Edmonton’s defense and goaltending is very exploitable, and with the Oilers likely keying to stop the Blackhawks’ first and second lines, that could open the door for playmaker Teuvo, grinder Shaw and on-the-spot Kruger to break through offensively. Look for Shaw to get to the net and Teuvo to create a scoring play in order for Kruger to have some bids.

Nov 14, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) watches the puck against the St. Louis Blues during the third period at Scottrade Center. The Blackhawks won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Corey Crawford

We talked about Toews setting the tone for his team tonight at the beginning of the roadtrip. Though Crow isn’t the team captain, it’s equally important he sets a tone of his own tonight, for what the Blackhawks can expect of their goaltender on this two-week trip. Crow probably won’t make all six starts on the trip (a back-to-back Friday and Saturday opens the door for Darling), but he could very well make five, even with the trip ending on a back-to-back as well. The Oilers do have some weapons on offense, so Crow will need to be sharp in order to help the Blackhawks start this trip with two points. In recent years, the Blackhawks have found their footing on the circus trip after sleepwalking through the early season. Crow’s goaltending has frequently played a role in that, and we should expect it to do so again, starting tonight.

Next: Blackhawks Should Pair Daley With Keith

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