Game Time: 7:30pm (Gates open at 6 for all you Bolland bobbleheaders)
TV/Radio: CSN / WGN 720
Ahh, the 2012 Rangers, they'll always have a special place in my heart. In a two week time span, the Rangers managed to end the Hawks 9 game losing streak AND give Stan Bowman a free 5th round pick, all while removing what can only be described as a toy with a choking hazard from our salt-and-pepper mustached toddler.
The Eastern Conference point leader enters the UC on a bit of a (relative) downswing of late; losers of their last two, and 5-3-2 in their last 10. Last night Marty Biron and the Rangers fell in Ottawa (4-1); unfortunately, this means that the Hawks will face the man who many consider to be the best netminder in the NHL, Vezina front-runner Henrik Lundqvist. The Hawks, who ravaged Marty Biron's gaping 5-hole last month, will have to work hard to get pucks by King Henrik, and it might take at least 1 PP goal and 1 dirty goal to get a win this evening. The blueliners in front of Lundqvist are pretty talented in their own right, especially once Marc Staal rejoined the Dcorps in early January.
New York has their fair share of offensive weapons at forward, but they do struggle offensively on occassion due to a powerplay that's even worse than the one that Q and crew direct. The Rangers are opperating at a 14% clip on the man advantage (good for 29th in the league), and are just 3 for their last 33. Glen Sather seemed to have a plan to bolster the team's offense, but all-in on Rick Nash apparently wasn't a plan with contingencies in place, and now the Rangers are left in a similar position as our Hawks; trying to solve PP issues with in-house personnel changes and minor tweaks to schemes. It's not just on the powerplay that the Rags have trouble finding the net, and players like Brad Richards (to some degree), Brandon Dubinsky, and Brian Boyle have underperformed based on point production expectations at the beginning of the season. With all that said, the Rangers are a team that will forecheck, get on the body, and force teams into mistakes, and no player embodies this offensive philosophy more than Captain Bowling Ball himself, Ryan Callahan.
As for the men in the red sweaters, let's start with an equation if I may: 2/16 win + Lundqvist - Toews + home ice advantage = ? If the Rangers can find their legs on this, the third game in four nights, then it will be a supreme challenge for our Hawks.
Q surprised us with his decision to start Crow against New York last month, and his decision to start Emery tonight is also a bit of a surprise (as documented by Sam on Wedesnday). I assume the forward lineup will be the same as it's been for the last few games, and according to Rogers, Hammer will get the start with Lepisto out of the lineup. It'll be interesting to see how Q handles Hjalmarsson tonight, especially if he's on the third pairing. Will the assumed third pairing of Hammer and Olsen get more minutes than other third pairing combinations have received of late? Will Hammer jump right back into full PK shifts? Will the Olsen-Hammer pairing ever get the puck beyond the neutral zone without it being iced? All questions that will be answered with blue shirts buzzing around Nik's concussed brain.
The Hawks need points on their home ice to secure not only their status as one of the conference's top 8, but also to add some cushion to the six seed, which looks like the most desirable bottom four spot right now.
Friday Fun Facts
- Hawks 2011-2012 Record when:
Sam Previews (15-11-4) - Killion Previews (14-8-1) - McClure Previews (4-1-2) - Hack Previews ( 3-5-0)
Sam Wraps (10-7-1) - Killion Wraps (8-3-2) - McClure Wraps (12-6-2) - Hack Wraps (6-9-2)
- The Hawks and Bulls (combined) play 7 consecutive alternating home games, starting with last night's Bulls game. That's six consecutive nights of hardwood-ice swap, which is the most this season.
- Thornton Fractional South 2003 Grad, University of Illinois Alum, and Super Bowl Champion, Pierre Thomas will be shooting the puck tonight at the UC. In '01 and '02 backup offensive guard (and pillar of mediocrity), Adam Hacker, stood on the sidelines and watched Pierre run roughshod over the south suburban HS football landscape. Hack will be watching from the sidelines again tonight, with 3,000 calorie UC meal in hand, as Pierre macks on whichever puck bunny they throw out there with him. - Cool Story Bro
Let's Go Hawks!