Game Time: 6:30 PM
TV/Radio: NBCSN / WGN 720
Keeping an eye on the rear-view mirror: On The Forecheck
I apologize for the very late and substantially abbreviated post today folks, it's tough to write a preview with kids climbing all over you on a family Sunday, but as my old curmudgeony football coach used to say, "Excuses are like assholes; everyone's got one and they all stink." With that said, let's get to it.
For all of the time spent talking about which playoff spot the Hawks might end up with, they haven't clinched a playoff spot yet. The Preds are one of 5 teams that stand between the Hawks and mid-April hockey. In taking 7 of a possible 8 points against the Hawks this year, we know that Nashville is a tough match-up for the Men of Four Feathers, but the Hawks might catch a break tonight with the Preds on the 2nd night of a back-to-back set. Rinne was in net last night for Nashville's victory over Winnepeg, therefore we may see struggling backup Anders Lindback in net. I've yet to hear whether or not the 6'6" Swede will be in net, but it's certainly possible that Trotz could go back to Rinne now that Chicago is breathing down the collective neck of the boys from Music City.
The numbers behind the Preds can be described as solid, but certainly unspectacular. Here is an update on what I provided in my 1/21 preview:
- 9th in the league in Goals/game
- 11th in GA/game
- 25th in Shots/game
- 23rd in Shots Against/game
- A +15 goal differential, the same differential as the one the Hawks currently feature
- Leading scorer - Martin Erat with 57 points in 67 games played
The non-Rinne influenced area in which Nashville has excelled for most of the year, and they continue to do so at this point in the season, is on the powerplay (tops in NHL).
This will be the Hawks first look at the Predators since the additions of Gill, Gaustad, and the elder Kostitsyn. Gaustad in particular figures to be a key factor in tonight's contest, as he's returned from a 8 day absence due to an upper body injury. There almost certainly will be a Trotz-Stache chess match as the neckless Nashville bench boss will attempt to get Gaustad out against Patrick Kane's line as often as possible.
We all know the story with our Hawks, they'll need a gritty shorthanded effort to get by the pesky Preds. Questions abound with regard to what the D pairings will look like with D2K out of the lineup. In scouring the tweets an hour or so ago, I found no hints from the beats as to who Johnny Oduya (who I consider to be the first domino in Q's gameplan) will be skating with. As I mentioned in the comments on the Keith suspension fanshot, Oduya for Keith would be a reasonable top pairing swap, but Q might not want to screw with what's working for Nick Leddy. With Monty and Lepisto still on the shelf, It would also be reasonable to assume that we'll see Sean O'Donnell on the ice for the first time in a month, which ought to be interesting to say the least.
Other questions that I've yet to receive an answer to:
- Who gets Dunc's "A"? Maybe Hoss? Does Q reward Kane for any positive steps he's taken in the way of leadership with Toews out.
-Bollig or Fro? Fro or Hayes? Your guess is as good as mine.
Despite the question marks that Dunc has created on the back end, the formula is still fairly simple as it pertains to a game against Nashville; stay out of the box and keep your effort level on par with the well-coached opposition.
Pertinent magic numbers - 7 over Phoenix, 4 over Colorado, and 3 over Calgary.
Let's see how this team responds to even more adversity than they were saddled with just 5 days ago. Let's go Hawks!!