We've given the NHL schedule makers a fair amount of shit this year and it's deserved. There's no reason the Hawks should be done playing a Central Division opponent like the Preds while only having played the Blues and Jackets once so far this year.
Well here's some credit when it's due - tonight's match up is a great one for a game on a big holiday like New Year's Eve. The Devils are somewhat surprisingly at the top of the Eastern Conference with 57 points. With a win, the Blackhawks join the Sharks for the same number of points to lead the the West. These teams aren't quite as different as you'd expect from year's past though. Jersey is certainly a lot more trap-happy than the Hawks but don't think they won't be able to turn on the burners and showcase some speed that will capitalize on any mistakes the Hawks may make.
And speaking of which, lets hope Jacque Lemaire doesn't read our site the way our fellow SBN writer John Fischer does. Over at In Lou We Trust, Fischer read Sam's comment in last game's recap mentioning the possible weak spot in the Hawk's armor may be a defense that is a bit shaky facing a strong forecheck. Well there are few teams that will be better at that than the Devils. They're loaded with strong two-way players that will have no problem putting some extra pressure on the Hawks while remaining solid in their own end. The Hawks will need to be able to stay calm and look for the right pass to get the puck out of their zone and attack, hoping to catch other team a man down.
The Devils are coming off a game last night where Martin Brodeur broke the shutout record (again) by blanking the Penguins (again). Speaking of which - I didn't get to see Brodeur's game where he broke the shutout record, did he awkwardly try cutting the net off the posts like he did when he beat the Hawks last year? Brodeur played a brilliant game last night and early reports are that he'll be going back-to-back to play the Hawks tonight. Not a bad call since Brodeur has a .932 SV% and 1.96 GAA. The only team he's beat up on more is the Montreal Canadiens. The Devils are also a scary 8-0-0 in the second leg of back to back games this year... including games against Boston and Pittsburgh (not exactly lightweights). And even though the Hawks are a force at home (17-4-1), the Devils just about as good on the road (13-3-1). Unstoppable force, meet the immovable object.
This is also a big game for the two fan bases as it'll be the first time John Madden gets to face his old squad. Earlier in the year Jesse Rogers asked him if he had a "hit list" for this game, Madden's response was that all he wanted was "to score on Marty and stand over him while someone takes a picture."... lets hope he gets his Ali/Liston moment.
Lets Go Hawks