Fire Extinguishers at the Ready as the Blackhawks Host the Flames Tonight!

Los Angeles Kings v Chicago Blackhawks
Los Angeles Kings v Chicago Blackhawks / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

Tonight (8:30 PM EDT on NBC Sports Chicago) the Chicago Blackhawks will be back home to host the Calgary Flames. Coming off a 3 game California road trip in (1-2) that ended with a dramatic come from behind victory (5-4 OT win over San Jose on Saturday night), Chicago will look to start off tonight's matchup better than in recent games.

A tough start in each of last weeks games made the rest of the later periods more difficult for the team. It was evident in a 4-0 shutout loss to the Ducks and even more so against a better opponent (Kings). Head coach Luke Richardson had the team do some extra conditioning in their latest practice to try and entice better starts (mentally and physically). It appears the lineup card for tonight is also out:

Ryan Donato, a key catalyst in their win last time out, is now on the top line with the teams' two most offensive forwards (top 2 scorers in Bedard and Kurashev). This type of reward system should only encourage others to do their best as they see what hard work and production can get you. Lukas Reichel, who had a strong effort as well, will look to continue with his chemistry with veteran Andreas Athanasiou.

When it comes to defense, the Wyatt Kaiser - Nikita Zaitsev 3rd pairing looks to be one that could potentially stay together to finish the season (11 games).

Wyatt Kaiser
Chicago Blackhawks v San Jose Sharks / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

Calgary comes in 14 points out of the last playoff spot and in the midst of what looks like a full rebuild. At the deadline, they would trade top 4 defenseman Noah Hanifin (to Vegas), veteran Chris Tanev (to New Jersey), and their top center Elias Lindholm (to Vancouver). While there are some good prospects already in the system (Zary, Coronato, Honzek most notably) the Flames prospect pool is only to be considered in the mid-tier class of the league according to most pundits.

It's likely that as quickly as this offseason, the Calgary Flames could quickly be where the Blackhawks are: the bottom 5 of the league. Question is though, will teams want to take on players such as Kadri, Coleman, Huberdeau, Weager, or Backlund? It's these type of players (and more so their contracts) that would keep Calgary right where they are (the middle).

Tonight should be one in which everyone should keep an eye on these 3 things:

1. The effort at the start of the game (first 10 minutes)

2. The Kaiser - Zaitsev pairing and how well it works

3. How the young Hawks forwards battle with the veteran Calgary forwards

Prediction: Blackhawks 3-2 OT win!