Take A Little Trip: Hawks at Wild Preview/Pregame Thread/Kung Fu Marathon

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200px-road_warrior_hawk_medium vs. Wild_medium

FACEOFF: 7pm
TV/RADIO: CSN, WGN Radio
MINNEHAHA HERALD: Hockey Wilderness

With Scum coming back to beat Scum Jr. in a shootout last night, the meaning of this game continues to sink. Essentially, both the Wings and Preds have to lose out for the Hawks to gain 4th, though each an gain one point in their last two if the Hawks can win out. But with the Devils in the Joe tonight and having no desire to leap up to 5th in the East when a date with whatever dreck comes out of the Southeast, that doesn't seem like a likely possibility. Combine that with the Preds having a date with a Stars squad that's already suffered the sucker punch of back to back losses to the Sharks, and it might be time to just start rooting for San Jose to keep LA from winning the Pacific. Not that I have this huge fear of the Kings anyway, but clearly they're the toughest option out of the Pacific.

Tonight's contest was also robbed of some of its watchability when it was announced yesterday that Jonathan Toews is making the trip but won't play. I'd be surprised if he plays in Detroit either, but you never know. Dave Bolland also is apparently ok but will miss out tonight, and you begin to wonder if the Hawks aren't thinking these last two games are merely finishing out the schedule.

If only the Wild did. While they've been buried without a flashlight or pocket knife for weeks, they haven't played like it recently. We all saw the pretty prickly effort from them on Sunday, which seem to come in defense of Dany Heatley -- which is kind of funny. They gave the Preds everything they wanted on Tuesday, losing that one in a shootout. Both of those came after beating the Kings and Panthers in shootouts as well, all teams that were vying for something. Apparently, they liked the taste of being a spoiler last season (and we still thank them for that) and wanted to expand on it this term. Also hasn't hurt that Mikko Koivu returned to the lineup, to once again solidify his place alongside Loui Eriksson on the Called Underrated So Much They're Not Really Underrated Anymore All-Stars.

Considering the boiling emotion of Sunday's tilt, it's highly unlikely the Wild are going to participate in a glorified scrimmage that I'm pretty sure the Hawks would prefer. Whether the Hawks want to up the tempo with them or just get out without anything fall off of anybody else, I can't really tell you. Without Toews or Bolland, we do know the Hawks are going to be awfully thin down the middle, which is never a good thing. But they'll get Duncan Keith back tonight, and I doubt he's going to just take it easy after being caged for almost two weeks. Should suss out some of the defensive nonsense we've seen the past two games. Other lineup changes appear to be Jimmy Hayes skating with Kane and Hossa, and Frolik in on the 4th line, and Brendan Morrison will come down from the wire to put Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell offside with an extra move at the blue line that probably won't work anyway.

With the seeding now looking pretty obvious, this game misses a lot of its heat. If these last two serve anything, it's the chance for Corey Crawford to pile up a couple performances and build momentum toward the playoffs, when he might have to outduel Jonathan Quick. I know, that sounds awful, but I'm comforting myself with the fact that Quick has exactly one more playoff win that Crawford, even though that doesn't really matter. But it's my reality, I can do with it what I see fit.

Enjoy Opening Day for those like myself clad in blue, and then we'll reconvene for this.
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