Send 'em Off Right: Blue Jackets At Blackhawks Preview, Game Thread, Magic: The Gathering Tournament

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Game Time: 7:30 Central
TV/Radio: Comcastl/WGN 720
Opposition Blogs: The Cannon
Don't Forget: Your SPG Picks

Say what you will about Tommy Hawk, but at least the Hawks never had whatever the hell that thing is running around the UC.  Even the new creepier looking Tommy Hawk (with a drum) is better than a giant green bug...

I could be wrong, but I believe that tonight the Blackhawks will be fighting to remain the only team in the NHL without three straight losses.  They'll be doing it against the Blue Jackets who are struggling to stay ahead of St. Louis at the bottom of the Central Division.  Things really aren't going well for the BJ's after their first playoff appearance last year.  They've only won 6 of their last 28 games. It's getting so bad that there has been noise in Columbus about coach Hitchcock losing his job, which would be a welcome sight for most of us as his style is about as fun to watch as mid-season baseball.  It'd be a damn shame for Hitchcock though as he's evidently a history nerd and participates in Civil War re-enactments, so coaching a team named after the Union side must be a dream come true. 

Even though they've won 3 of the last 4, things aren't much different for the Jackets than the last time we saw them in early december.  They're starting to tighten up defensively and may have received a nice spark from a trade where they acquired Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina, but they still let the Blues get 4 past them in their last game and aren't looking too frightening.  Steve Mason is still mired in a sophomore slump with a SV% of only .892.  He was pulled in his last start after giving up 6 goals on 13 shots in Vancouver and that was back on the 5th of this year.  He was perfect in his return to the ice in relief last night though and had a streak of 3 games in a row with a SV% of .919 or better before the being pulled in against the Canucks...  Hitchcock has been quick to play the hot hand with his goalies so Mason could have reclaimed the starting spot after that effort.  If not we'll see Mathieu Garon... either way, expect the Blue Jackets to choke the life out of the neutral zone as it's their M.O. and one of the few strategies that really seems to work against the Hawks, especially when VERSTEEG! is on the ice. 

As for the Blackhawks, well I'm not really sure.  I'm writing this fairly early in the morning so there isn't much news to really throw around.  We do know that we'll see the return of Marian Hossa from whatever it was that kept him out of the last game.  That'll be a boost to a team that saw their streak of 4+ goal games come to an end.  Cristobal Huet will be back in net after the Minnesota disaster (and that's an entire team disaster, it's not all on Huet). 

A little on Huet here though, no one should expect him to be lights out every night.  He'll have off games, and we may see more than we'd like, but how he responds is incredibly important.  And so far Huet has stepped up admirably after laying a bit of a stinker.  He's given up 4 or more goals only 4 times this year.  In two games after a beating, he's given up only a single goal.  In a third he gave us a shutout.  We'll see how he responds tonight.

This will be a big game for the Hawks as it'll be their last home game until February 3rd.  The Hawks have had a few days off to rest after a brutal stretch of seemingly daily games, getting things back on track will be important before hitting the road for 8 games in a row. 

Lets Go Hawks

P.S.  Remember if you're heading to the game to pick up The Indian, we're all over.  And if you're not going to the game, you can get it in your email by hitting the link on the left "Committed Indian Subscriptions"

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