GAMETIME: 9:30 pm Central
TV/RADIO: CSN/720 AM
POSTCARDS FROM THE OTHER SIDE: Fear The Fin
It's only been about a full season since the Hawks were playing "big games" that everyone in hockey would pay attention to, and it's still cool to me. It hasn't lost any of its sheen. Serious hockey fans everywhere will be keeping an eye on this one. This is a rare occurrence in November, so it's worth enjoying.
Anyway, the best two teams in the league bang the gong tonight in White Oakland. We've been over the big story from the Hawks side, and that's the return of Marian Hossa (or Fat Tony, or Hoss-bolla -another nickname I'd like to try on for size). From the Sharks side, the recent goings on have seen Marleau punted up to the top line with Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley, which has the entire country of Canada salivating because that's probably the Olympic team's top line, too. They've been together for two games, and produced six goals. Ouch. Should be interesting to see how Todd McLellan wants to arrange this. For sure he wants to keep Thornton away from John Madden, and very well may just fight fire with fire due to Kane's lack of size and not-total defensive awareness (though it's much better than what it was, whether you like it or not). He'll also try and keep Jumbo Joe away from Marlboro 72 (Keith and Seabrook), so expect Hjalmarsson and 51 Phantom to have quite the workout tonight.
As of right now, it looks like Dan Boyle will not play tonight. He blocked a shot in their last game in Anaheim, and there's been some call-ups from the Shark affiliate in Worcester (how's that for a shuttle?). If Boyle doesn't play it really affects the Sharks. That blue line looks a lot less threatening without him, and the power play could take a hit as they have no other QB back there. That doesn't mean the Hawks should feel the need to parade to the box, however. Devin Setoguchi also probably won't play, and Rob Blake is a long-term absentee.
The Sharks scare me at the second line. It's not that I don't love Sharp, Versteeg, and whichever big body is paired with them (probably Buff as Brouwer will be needed on a checking line), but the trio Pavelski and Clowe are animals. Thankfully, Setoguchi's absence takes away some of this bite.
The Sharks and Hawks haven't played a game that hasn't been massively entertaining in a long time. I don't believe in anything such as "statement games", especially this early in the year. What I do know is that all of us will be beaming during Thanksgiving if the Hawks go into the den of the league's current point-leader and beat them for the second time in two weeks. Should that happen, we can drop the "arguably" from the label the Hawks have as "arguably the league's best team right now." Make it happen.
Update: Boyle's in, so ignore all that.
Reminder: Shenanigans and more at Whirlaway (3224 W. Fullerton) tonight. Kick the holiday off right with us, and make Killion feel even worse for the crime of spending the holiday with his family. Fool.