The good thing about these protracted slumps is that I don't have to put a ton of effort into writing about the Blackhawks. Just take everything Fels said in the last preview and apply it here. We can't be looking for a pretty game from the Hawks... just a gritty one. The kind of game they played way back in November in San Jose... only hopefully without the 1-0 loss. It's not too late to turn this road trip around and at least make it respectable. Doing so is going to take some major work though. There's 5 games left and there's a lot to get through before the Columbus game (which I grow more and more scared of by the minute). Tonight it starts in San Jose against the Pacific leading Sharks.
Tonight's Hawks squad will have a different look to it due to both injury and Q's general wont. If the lines from yesterday's practice hold true, we're looking at a top line of Hossa-Toews-Frolik and a fourth line of Brunette-Mayers-Stalberg. Stals has obviously found himself in Q's doghouse again for the turnover that resulted in a Avalanche goal on Tuesday. Stalberg has been one of the more impressive Hawks lately so it's shocking to see him fall so far from the top lines when the Hawks are already struggling but if Stalberg can get going as a bum-slayer then I'll take it. Frolik hasn't been noticable for a while now, playing with Toews and Hossa is a good way to get some attention though so only time will tell if this will give Fro a boost or if we'll see him back on the fourth line by the end of the second period... I vote for the latter.
We're also getting some fun new changes on defense. Montador is out with an upper-body injury so rather than play Lepisto, Dylan Olsen is flying in to save the day. Olsen had a brief shot with the team last month playing against Philly and Colorado. He looked a little shaky against Philly but I would imagine most 21 year olds would against a team like that. The next night against Colorado was a much stronger outing but it was still in a 4-0 loss. He's shown flashes of playing with a solid physical presence that is much needed for the Hawks. Sadly, even Q couldn't plan for Hammer to go from the flu to an upper-body injury of his own. Nik flew back to Chicago with Montador meaning that Q has no other choice but to let Lepisto actually see some ice time tonight. Actually, I guess he could have played Scott but even Q seems to have soured on that idea. I'm sure many of us will be watching Lepisto closely to try and figure out why the coach seems to hate him so much. These two changes aren't likely to spark the turnaround our defense so badly needs but I think the only way it could get much worse is if they just start firing shots back at Crawford themselves... now watch OD put in an own goal tonight just to spite me.
Oh, and everyone seems to have the flu too. So there's that.
As for the men of teal, things aren't exactly roses. They've lost their last two in a row (allowing 9 goals) and they're about to venture out on their own 9 game road trip. However, they'll still have Antti Niemi in net who loves nothing more than saving his best games for the Hawks. Though the Hawks solved that Finnish puzzle last month though for a 4-3 win. Joe Thornton is having a hell of a time lately, scoring 8 points in 4 games. The Hawks have shown the ability to stay with San Jose this year. The previously mentioned 1-0 loss was the only time so far the Hawks have walked out of a game without a victory this season. Despite the size and skill of the Sharks forwards, the Hawks have consistently shown the ability to keep them on their heels. It'll be another struggle tonight, especially given the changes, but it won't be impossible. A classic simple road game is all we want... Please?
Oh, and if anyone sees Fels at the game tonight.. buy him a beer. Or punch him.
Let's Go Hawks