GAMETIME: 9:30pm Central
TV/RADIO: WGN FOR BOTH
ROYAL PROCLOMATIONS: Jewels From The Crown
One more game, and the Hawks Circus Trip for this year will be over. In past years, this last game against the Kings has always been a "nice if we get it, but the trip's already a success" affair. That hasn't stopped the Hawks from winning three of their last four there, with the only blemish a shootout loss. However, this time the Hawks need this game for a successful trip, which isn't exactly how you want to go into the last game of a long road trip when things tend to get mailed in as dreams of your own bed and home creep in.
But then again, it's what you get when you snuff it in Alberta, isn't it?
After yesterday's bonkers excursion in Orange County, the Hawks close this venture west out with a much spikier and tougher Kings squad than the Ducks one they made a serious challenge out of. The Kings only have four points less than the Hawks, but have been surprisingly mediocre at home going only 6-5-1 on Figueroa. They've obviously been much better when donning the white sweaters, where they've only lost twice in regulation out of 10 games.
Before the season, when lining up who you'd like most the Hawks to avoid in the spring, I'm sure I wasn't the only one putting the Kings on the top of the list. It's hard to think of a more solid defense, 1-6, than the one the Kings sport, even if golden boys Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson can't seem to play together. Combined with Rob Scuderi, Willie Mitchell, the snarling Matt Greene, and promising kids Martinez and Voynov it really is something to behold. Backstopping them is Jonathan Quick, who always has sparkling numbers before dying of exhaustion in the playoffs. Maybe coach Terry Murray will figure out to not throw him out there 65+ times a season this campaign.
In fact, there are a lot of eyes on Murray for a lot of other factors. As strong as the team is down the middle and with gun-toting d-men in Doughty and Johnson, the Kings can't score for shit, ranking 22nd. Murray's system would be politely called "unsophisticated", or we might call it "Blues West". The Kings are another angry birds style attack, flinging the puck and themselves in as straight a line as possible while hoping to convert any loose pucks, turnovers, and rebounds. Considering they have Kopitar, Richards, and Stoll centering their top three lines (when Stoll isn't on a wing as he is currently), you'd think they might opt for a little more creativity. But they're winning just enough to keep his ass off the hotseat. Just.
The Hawks need to stay out of the box, because if you combine a completely helpless kill with how on fire Mike Richards is on the man-advantage, it will spell instant doom. Bolland gets the challenge he relishes in dealing with one of the league's leading scorers in Kopitar, and maybe that'll snap him out of the even-strength haze he's been in.
Haven't seen any official word, but considering Crawford was hardly glittering yesterday south on I-5 I would imagine that Razor will get the start tonight.
Even though the Hawks have had the best of the Kings the past couple years, winning seven of the eight, they're always tight, passionate affairs. This one should be no different.