GAMETIME: 6pm Central
TV/RADIO: CSN. WGN Radio 720
Satan's Siren: In Lou We Trust
So was it just a one-off (much like McClure during an Eve Lawrence video)? Or was Wednesday's superlative fisting of the Wild the signal that the Hawks are ready to flip the switch and roll into the playoffs? We'll find out tonight, because the challenge level goes up some serious notches.
The Hawks will sport the same lineup they did Wednesday, and well they should. Burish will be back in the pressbox, but why change what worked so well? What worries me is that if Q wants to match Duncan Keith against Zach Parise, that means Buff will actually face some skill against. That could be icky. Q will have to pick his poison, because marauding on the Devils second line is Patrick Elias and Ilya Kovalchuk, which is only slightly scary. Expect Hammer and Seabs to draw that assignment, but if the game's close in the 3rd I would fully expect Marlboro 72 to be reunited. Antti Niemi gets the start, and so the keys are his now. Drive that fucker til the end, Anti-goal!
The Devils have lost their last two (one in OT, but they didn't score) and according to the boys at In Lou are not exactly impressed with the efforts. They've had trouble starting games, and haven't been scoring. Prize pickup Kovalchuk has had a little trouble adjusting to the Devils system, with only 8 goals in 21 games -- opposed to the 31 in 49 he had with Atlanta. But he's still got 20 points in NJ, and he looked to be flying in their last game against Boston. Ignore him at your peril.
Paul Martin is back for the Devils, a nifty puck-moving defenseman. But past that, with the removal of the shockingly-Swedish Johnny Oduya, he might be the only one on Jersey. But that doesn't mean this corps can't shut you down, and then there's the small problem of the greatest goalie of all-time behind them. Jamie Langenbrunner always seems to light us up, and Zach Parise is about as entertaining a player to watch as there is in the league.
One facet I'm interested to watch is the power play. It had only one chance in St. Paul, and though it didn't score it actually looked to be in the same neighborhood as a clue. Surprisingly, the Devils' PK is only middle of the road, and this is a part of the Hawks game that just has to get going. Now.
Last time these two met was arguably the Hawks most impressive win of the season. They simply ran the Devils out of the building, winning 5-1 on New Year's Eve before we all went and got hammered. I doubt they've forgotten that. So, is this the start of something big? Or a return to Daddy In The Doldrums (five points to anyone who gets that musical reference)?
The Watcher will open a thread for every period, so have at your pre-game one.