Getting even in sports is an incredible motivator, and the Chicago Blackhawks will certainly be using a bit of one when they take on the Minnesota Wild once again tonight. This will be the second game of a home and home series which Minnesota decisively won the first half of Saturday night at The United Center.
Corey Crawford will once again be in net and will possibly relinquish his position to Nikolai Khabibulin for the second part of back-to-back games tomorrow night at home against the Ottawa Senators. Not playing in either of these games will be center Michal Handzus who still remains on the injury report.
Jeremy Morin will remain on the third line with the explosive combination of Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell, while Brandon Pirri has seemingly earned his shot at the top six, as he centered the second line in practice earlier today.
Marcus Kruger was at the helm of the second line the first time against Minnesota but has now been relegated after a poor performance Saturday night. On the fourth line will likely be Ben Smith, who replaces Brad Mills at not only wing but on perhaps the penalty kill.
The penalty kill, however, will not be fixed overnight. The process begins by simply staying out of the penalty box in the first place, limiting frustration and careless penalties. Saturday was an uncharacteristic night for the Blackhawks, as the team took five penalties in total.
Once on the penalty kill, the opening draw is crucial to how successful the penalty kill will be. Despite being last in the league on the penalty kill, the Blackhawks are actually 13th best in the league at the faceoff dot (51.2 percent). That being said, Comcast SportsNet reviewed each power play goal allowed from this year and determined two within the first five seconds of the kill. Another five goals total this season have been scored within the first 36 seconds.
Improvement cannot be instant, and there is clearly a lot of work that needs to be done. That being said, tonight will be a great gauge, as minor personnel changes and the same opponent will give the coaching staff a chance to see how much progress has been made within the past 48 hours.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @mike486