3 Chicago Blackhawks To Watch Against Road Warrior Sharks

Feb 4, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; San Jose Sharks teammates celebrate defeating the St. Louis Blues 3-1 at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 4, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; San Jose Sharks teammates celebrate defeating the St. Louis Blues 3-1 at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

After a two-day break, the Chicago Blackhawks will get back to the ice tonight against the San Jose Sharks. The Blackhawks are coming off a 3-0-0 roadtrip through Colorado, Arizona and Dallas, and they’ll spend the next three games at the Madhouse on Madison. The Sharks are concluding a four-game road swing, which has seen them lose to Anaheim and Nashville but defeat St. Louis.

This game will mark the conclusion of the regular-season series between these teams, with the Blackhawks having previously won 4-3 in overtime at home and 5-2 on the road. That may make the Sharks seem like easier pickings tonight, but they have the second-most road victories in the league this season, sitting at 17-8-2 (behind Washington’s 18-5-2). The Blackhawks, however, have been stellar at home, leading the league in home victories at 21-5-1. So something has to give tonight.

The Blackhawks will look to build on their five-point edge over Dallas (at Minnesota on NBCSN) and eight-point advantage over St. Louis (vs. Winnipeg), while the Sharks will try to make up some ground on Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles, which they trail by seven points.

Let’s look at the starting lineups for tonight’s affair, starting with the Blackhawks.

Andrew ShawJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa

Artemi Panarin/Teuvo TeravainenArtem AnisimovPatrick Kane

Andrew DesjardinsPhillip Danault-Teuvo Teravainen/Jiri Sekac

Brandon MashinterDennis RasmussenRichard Panik

Duncan KeithNiklas Hjalmarsson

Erik GustafssonBrent Seabrook

Trevor van RiemsdykMichal Rozsival

Corey CrawfordScott Darling

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Little bit of a curveball this morning, as Panarin missed the skate with an illness. He’s officially questionable for tonight’s game, meaning we won’t know until line rushes whether or not he’s in. Logic would suggest Teuvo bumps up to the second-line wing if Panarin cannot play, as there’s really no one else who should take that coveted spot (even if Teuvo has been playing right wing for most of the season). If Panarin is out, Sekac would draw in, and I figure he would slot in to Teuvo’s third-line wing spot. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.

Otherwise, everything else remains the same, which is Joel Quenneville‘s modus operandi when the team is on a win streak. That means Crow draws back into the net, seeking his fourth consecutive victory. It might be nice to see Darling get some rope here soon, just to give Crow a little respite, but with this being a relatively light workload month for the Blackhawks, Crow could very well see nearly every, if not every, start.

On to the Sharks.

Tomas HertlJoe ThorntonJoe Pavelski

Matthew NietoPatrick MarleauJoel Ward

Joonas DonskoiLogan CoutureTommy Wingels

Melker KarlssonChris TierneyMike Brown

Paul MartinBrent Burns

Marc-Edouard VlasicJustin Braun

Brenden DillonDylan DeMelo

Martin JonesAlex Stalock

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Besides the fourth line, San Jose’s forward combinations have some threat to them. Most of the production comes from the top six, however, as Pavelski leads the club with 51 points, Thornton boasts 44 and Marleau 32. Ward’s hot start in his first season in San Jose has cooled to 31 points through 49 games played, and guys like Hertl and Donskoi are good for occasional complementary scoring. Wingels will get plenty of rub from Pat Foley tonight as “THE LOCAL BOY” as well.

Burns is an offensive dynamo from the blue line, having tallied 44 points and an absurd 213 shots on goal. The rest of the defensive unit is less than impressive on both sides of the puck, though Vlasic has 28 points this season. This is a group of mostly big boys who can get outskated by a team like the Blackhawks (or teams like Colorado, Edmonton, Tampa Bay, etc.). Additionally, whoever decided to put a guy with the last name Dillon and a guy with the first name Dylan together on a pairing should be fired.

Jones gets the call in net, and he’s been lit up to the tune of eight goals in two appearances against the Blackhawks this season. Overall, his .913 save percentage and 2.43 goals-against average are “meh” at best.

Let’s look at three Blackhawks to watch against the Sharks.

chicago blackhawks
Feb 6, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars left wing Antoine Roussel (21) checks Chicago Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw (65) during the third period at the American Airlines Center. The Blackhawks defeat the Stars 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

Andrew Shaw

There’s a very fine line for Shaw between helping the team with his “pest” antics and hurting the team by losing his cool. He’d be far better served avoiding the latter train of thought tonight, as the Sharks carry the league’s third-best powerplay into the United Center. Shaw also had a goal last time out against the Sharks, crashing Jones and putting home a rebound to tie the game in the third period. Shaw has been getting in close to the net quite a bit recently, which has drawn the ire of opponents. He needs to do more of that tonight, as Jones is certainly not a top-of-the-line goaltender, and getting in his grill should throw his game off to an extent. Shaw just needs to remember to cool it when the play is over, so he doesn’t put his team down a man against a potent Sharks special teams unit.

chicago blackhawks
Jan 21, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith (2) works out prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Duncan Keith

No. 2 had two assists last time out against the Sharks, including the secondary on Toews’ game-winning goal. He’ll have the role of shutting down the Sharks’ top six along with Hjalmarsson. If you can neutralize guys like Marleau, Pavelski and Thornton, you’ve won a good part of the offensive battle against San Jose. But there’s more to what Keith (and Hjammer) need to do tonight to help the Blackhawks be successful. In both games, the Sharks won the shots on goal battle over the Blackhawks. If Keith makes smart plays from his own zone to help the Blackhawks start offensive rushes, that script could flip for tonight’s game. He should also feel free to put the put at the net from the blue line, as getting ample rubber on Jones should be part of the formula tonight. I know someone who would appreciate all of this, too …

chicago blackhawks
Feb 6, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn (14) misses an open net as Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) defends during the first period at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

Corey Crawford

It’s not often you see a guy give up three goals and get the game’s second star. That’s what happened last time Crow faced the Sharks, as he got limited help from his teammates possessing the puck. The Sharks have some very talented playmakers in Marleau, Pavelski, Thornton, Hertl, Donskoi and Burns from the blue line. Donskoi specifically burned Crow the last time out, as he received a breakaway and got Crow to bite hard on a fake move before tapping the puck into an empty net. Crow will need to be on top of his angles and rebound control tonight, sending everything to the boards or keeping it beneath him for a whistle. On top of that, if the Sharks do get to a powerplay, he may need to take some liberties with moving opponents out of his way. Wingels tallied a powerplay goal in the previous game between these teams in large part because Crow was heavily screened. If he has to cross-check a guy in the back a few times, he should certainly do so (just don’t draw an additional penalty).