Land Of Sunshine - Hawks @ Sharks Preview, Pregame Thread, Echocardiogram

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Game time: 9:30PM CST
TV/Radio: Comcast Sportsnet, WGN-AM 720
Pirates of Silicon Valley: Fear The Fin

And so we reach yet another seasonal milepost, the Hawks now-perennial visit to the Server Room for a Black Wednesday date with the Sharks. Coming into tonight, the Sharks sit in the lead of the Pacific Division with 25 points in only 18 games (3 in hand on the Hawks), and having won 3 straight games, and only missing out on 3 of a possible 16 points so far this month. Suffice it to say, I think that the teal have avoided the slow start that they needed a 2 months of scorching hot play from everyone to come back from last year. They've done so to this point on the backs of the usual regular season standouts, with Joe Thornton leading the way with 20 points, and the other Joe, Joe Pavelski not far behind with 19, but also leading with 11 goals. Patrick Marleau also has himself 19 points, which I'm sure makes Jeremy Roenick feel all warm and squishy inside. Martin Havlat hasn't provided the offense that was hoped of him after being dealt for Speed Racer this off season, but fellow newcomer Michal Handzus has filled in nicely as a third centerman.

On the back end of things, the Sharks are still big, slow, mean, and for the most part dumb, excepting Dan Boyle. Fellow former Wild Brett Burns has provided the bomb of a shot from the point on the power play he was brought in for, as 3 of his 4 goals have come on the advantage, and Marc-Eduard Vlasic freaked the fuck off last week to boost his point totals, but even with the increase in offense from the blueline from these two, as a unit they're not the fleetest of foot. Member of the "Curiously non-Swedish Name" team Douglas Murray and long-time Devils redass Colin White will provide some snarl in front of Antti Niemi, but they've got to catch their opposition first.

As it is most of the time, there's not a lot that the Sharks don't do at least competently. Their scoring and power play are among the league leaders (3.1 per, 22.1%), and their goals against is still good for 10th in the league at 2.4, with Antti Niemi providing solid if unspectacular goaltending behind that frantic glove hand and slumped shoulders. If there's one sore spot for the Sharks, it's the PK, which is just a pube or two better than the Hawks' at 74.6%, but the Sharks are the least penalized team in the West, which balances things out. So basically what I'm saying is there aren't a lot of holes here.

As for the Men of Four Feathers, it appears that the cavalry could very well be arriving tonight in the form of Brent Seabrook and Michael Frolik, both of whom are gametime decisions. While Fro was fighting it a bit prior to making out with the boards in Vancouver, Seabrook's return to being paired with Duncan Keith proved to be a stabilizing force for the Hawks' blue line, one that they've sorely missed after getting pecker slapped up and down Alberta last weekend. Blown coverages left and right due to guys skating above their slotted spots and with new partners led to a rough go of it in the Hawks' end, especially for Duncan Keith, who got dong whipped with a -8 in those two games (though some of that can be attributed to bad luck). What can still be quantified however, is what Keith's increased workload does to his effectiveness, and once again to we get to the belabored point of John Scott. Scott will most likely be in the lineup again tonight, paired with Steve Montador (who showed why he's best left on a third pair),  much to the chagrin of this here writing staff. It's baffling that this is still even something that needs to be worried about, and yet here we sit once again. Scott cannot be trusted and serves no purpose. It's not cute or funny or insignificant anymore, and if this organization were serious about winning hockey games rather than imaginary toughness battles or sparing the feelings of a nice guy, he'd be wearing a big and tall suit for the rest of the season.

Up front, Frolik's possible presence would more than likely push the unfortunately faced Bryan Bickell out of the lineup, as he can't seem to be bothered to initiate contact despite being 6'4" and 230, which may create some new combinations within the bottom 6. What we do know is that Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews will likely see a LOT of Joe Thornton, with Handzus taking on the undersized Kane line. It will be up to the Hawk forwards to use their speed to the outside and hopefully catch a lumbering d-man standing still or reaching, and capitalize on any power play opportunities they're given.

The Hawks have filled their diapers in the last two games against a mis-mashed Calgary team and a bunch of kids from Edmonton. Tonight's opponent is a bunch of grown ass men with as serious of Cup aspirations as the Hawks. Let's hope the Hawks treat them that way. Let's go Hawks.


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