I've been looking forward to this game all year. I made sure that the partial-season ticket plan I bought included this game even though now I won't be sitting in those seats. My old roommate moved back to Pittsburgh a while ago but is currently on his way back out here for this game.
The only bad news is that the Penguins have done just about everything they can to ruin the excitement for this game. After taking the Scum to game 6 of the finals last year, the Pens have followed it up with a disasturous season. Their biggest names on D started the season injured, their coach finally screwed things up enough to get himself shown the door (and inspired another great Pensblog photoshop contest), and Crosby has been his normal whiney self.
Right now, the Penguins are 4th in their division (!) and in 10th overall in the East. Still the Hawks main defensive lines will certainly have their hands full with trying to contain Malkin who still leads the scoring race with 88 points though that other Russian is closing the gap on him. Crosby is just a point behind Ovie but missed the Pens last game against the horrible Islanders and didn't practice yesterday. He's out for tonight's game - so that's a plus for the Hawks because as much as you might hate him... he's still a dangerous player.
One thing the Hawks have going for them is the Pens give up a lot of goals. They give up 3.02 goals per game and have let in 4 or more 24 times this year. Marc Andre Fleury hasn't been having the best year:
|2008 - Marc-Andre Fleury||44||2542||22||16||4||4||122||2.88||1327||1205||.908||3|
His .908 SV% is 28th best and his 2.88 GAA is a horrible 32nd best. Of course now that I'm pointing out how he sucks (not ripping on him.. these are facts) he'll probably have a great game. I'm hoping that by pointing it out in the preview though I can jinx this disturbing trend.
The Pens made the first big trade of the deadline time yesterday and we should see Kunitz's first game with the team. Ideally, I think they want him with Crosby so we'll have to see who he'll play with tonight. Since replacing their coach the Pens are also 3-1-1 - only one of those wins comes against a quality team (Philly) while the OT loss is against the Islanders. So it's way too soon to say how well the team is playing for their new leader.
On the Hawks side of things - The Daily Herald is saying Q broke up the D-Ladd-Soul line putting Martylark on the Buff-VERSTEEG! line and Adams with Boll and Ladd. This comes at the same time the Hawks announced they've recalled Jack Skille from Rockford.
Skille obviously adds some size to the Hawks bench but he hasn't shown he's quite ready for the NHL yet in his brief time with the Hawks. It'll be interesting to see how much time he gets tonight and where exactly he'll play.
The Hawks Power Play unit is in a bit of a funk (1 for the past 17) but it could prove the key to the game tonight. The Pens PP teams have been horrible all year and they currently sit at 24th overall. The PK units for these teams have about the same this year with the Hawks having a slightly better record (Hawks 80.9% to Pens 80.5%). My guess is whichever team wins the special teams battles wins this game (as it usually is).
Huet is getting the start again tonight so hopefully he can get back on his hot streak. The Hawks need to start off this stretch of home games on the right skate. They're 1-3-1 in the last 5 at home but still have a record of 15-5-5 overall in the UC. It obviously should be another packed house tonight
Hopefully the day off that Q gave the Hawks on Wednesday did some good and they come out flying tonight. Don't forget to pick up a copy of The Committed Indian as it's been a while since the Hawks have played at home and Sam desperately needs beer money. Mjthor, please tell him what to drink now.
Lets Go Hawks