All of a sudden, the Central Division has become a dangerous division in the NHL. No one is surprised to see the Scum in the race for the President's Trophy (though in case you didn't see it, they blew a 4-2 lead going into the third and ultimately lost in a shootout with the Flames last night. Sam and I both agree that if it keeps up this way, the Wings are for the taking in the playoffs). I think people knew the Hawks were going to be in the playoffs but I didn't think they'd be playing for home-ice. Both the Preds and Blues are fighting for the the last couple spots and with a defeat of the Sharks last night the Blues are just two points out (The Blues in the playoffs is something I'm just not ready to see this year).
Most shocking of all though, the BJs are pretty well locked in the playoffs. They sit in 6th place right now so it's far from certain but they're one point behind the Canucks and four points ahead of the Oilers. They're also playing some damn good hockey lately.
The army from Ohio has won their last three games against some damn good teams. They crushed the Scum 8-2 (again... there's blood in the water).. they blanked the Bruins and then just last night they beat the Pens in a shoot-out.
The fact that this will be the Jackets third game in 4 nights against what should be a decently rested Hawks squad is in our favor. Also in our favor is the Hawks called yet another players-only meeting to try to get some intensity back on the ice. I'm a little shocked by this quote though from The Trib:
Along with captain Jonathan Toews and veteran defenseman Brent Sopel, they apparently had the most to say on the subject of the team raising the level of play to playoff intensity.
Who the hell let Sopel back in the locker room!?!
Anyways, Columbus has been lead by Calder Candidate Steve Mason:
|2008 - Steve Mason||48||2862||28||16||3||6||105||2.20||1314||1209||.920||9|
Mason's GAA is 2nd overall in the league behind Tim Thomas (who, as some of you might know, shares a name with a Bulls player). His SV% is also up there, good enough for 6th overall. Luckily for us, Mason played last night against the Pens so it's likely he'll get the day off and we'll face Wade Dubielewicz (who might share the name of a point-guard in some eastern European league).
|2008 - Wade Dubielewicz||2||109||0||2||0||1||7||3.85||47||40||.851||0|
Dubie obviously isn't the game-changer that Mason is though by saying that, he'll probably be standing on his head all game now. The Frenchman gets another start for the Hawks tonight as Khabby will probably play Sunday against the Islanders.
Last I've heard is Martylark is still questionable for tonight's game but expect an update from us if we hear anything definite. The BJs are good but beatable and they're the only Central team the Hawks have had any luck with this season - 2-0-0 against Jackets, 2-6-5 against the others (ouch).
This will be another tough game but with Mason out and hopefully with a tired Columbus team it should be a bit easier. Not a game to sleep on though.
Lets Go Hawks
UPDATE: And as soon as I post this - it's announced Marty is back for tonight's game... let us all rejoice