With the Colorado Avalanche sealing the Blackhawks’ playoff chances last night, the team can only go out and play as they host the St. Louis Blues tonight.
It will be a big game for defenseman and former Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Dennis Gilbert, who makes his NHL debut tonight. The 2015 third-round pick has 14 points in 59 AHL games this year in Rockford. At just 22-years-old, Gilbert brings a more defensive-minded approach to the game that the Blackhawks need. He has spent time on Rockford’s top defensive pairing with Henri Jokiharju. And at just under 200 pounds, he plays a more physical game than the recent blue-line draftees in the Blackhawks’ system.
These teams have a rich past with a high dislike for each other, so tonight’s game should be entertaining despite Chicago not playing for anything. The pair has matched up four times this year, all of which were before the end of November. Chicago is 3-1 against the Blues with a pair of overtime wins and a 1-0 win on November 14.
In their four games, both teams have combined for 27 goals (14-13 STL), half of the Blues’ goals came from a 7-3 win on October 27. St. Louis has the 15thranked power play in the NHL and have been red-hot against the Blackhawks, cashing in on six of their 16 chances (37%). Chicago is just 2-for-10 on the power play against the Blues.
As for players to watch tonight, Jonathan Toews and Vladimir Tarasenko should continue their dominance for their respective teams. Toews has three goals against the Blues, all of them coming in their first meeting back in October. Tarasenko has a pair of two-goal games against the Hawks. Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat have scored twice against St. Louis this season.
Cam Ward will get the nod between the pipes for the Blackhawks. It will be his first appearance since March 3. In his last five games, Ward has given up a total of 21 goals with a record of 2-3-0. This will give Corey Crawford a rest after he started 13 straight games for Chicago going 7-3-3 in that stretch.
Puck drop from United Center is at 7:00pm CT. Catch the game on NBCSN-TV.
Josh Barlog is a Contributor for the Unwrapped Sports Network website. Connect with him on: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram