Game Time: 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
Dollywood Season Pass Holders: On The Forecheck
After 44 hours of not stop (alleged) blindside hit talk, we now thankfully once again get to talk about a different game. The Nashville Predators step foot inside the United Center for the first time since Game 5 of the first round of the playoffs last spring, which, if you don't recall, had some interesting stuff happen. Barry Trotz's boys come into tonight's game having only played once, defeating the not-so-mighty-these-days Anaheim Ducks 4-1, and threw 49 shots at Jonas Hiller in the victory, which would certainly speak to the numerous, oh-so-subtle claims of one Chris Burton that the Predators don't trap. Given the sample size, that remains to be seen, but 49 shots is certainly nothing to flick a booger at. However in that game, the Preds lost starting netminder Pekka Rinne, needing something called Anders Lindback to come on in relief, where he didn't allow a goal. Lindback will be in net tonight with Rinne not making the trip, and and the itchy-asshole level annoyance that is Martin Erat will also not be in uniform tonight. Also gone from the off season are the corpse of Jason Arnott and "I've got Kaner" Dan Hamhuis, both via trade. Behemoth Shea Weber now deservingly dons the "C" for Nashville, and he'll likely log heavy minutes with partner Ryan Suter, as is usually the case. Free agent aquisition Matthew Lombardi now centers their top line, and he'll be flanked by Colin Wilson and J.P. Dumont. Wade Belak will allegedly be in the lineup, so there's a chance he may entertain the notion of scrapping with John Scott. As far as things that are likely to be the same as last year, Steve Sullivan will be shifty, Joel Ward will have a "high motor", David Legwand will be heinous, and Jordin Tootoo will still, as always, be a penis.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, they're coming off their first win of the season - an up and down affair in Buffalo that saw the Hawks go down 2-0 less than three minutes in, have Niklas Hjalmarsson tossed, and then finally come roaring back in the second and third led by Marian Hossa and his two gigantic balls...I mean goals. I said goals. Hammer will be enjoying Mai Tais in the press box for tonight and Friday, so Jordan Hendry will be stepping in to round out the defense corps. Do not be shocked if Keith and Seabrook are split up to provide a bit of balance to the pairings. Nick Leddy, who notched his first goal in Buffalo as well, and has already shown signs of improvement over the epileptic fits he went into last week in Denver. Corey Crawford again starts in net tonight, which is a bit curious for even people other than us, it seems. For now, let's just take it at face value. Up front, look for Q to stick with the lines that worked on Monday, with Bickell now riding shotgun with the Patricks, Skille and Stalberg dragging Dave Bolland up the ice, and Troy Brouwer still bafflingly toiling on the ostensible fourth line with Dowell and Pisani. While it will be a challenge given the lineup woes of the defense at present, the Hawks simply have to reduce the number of shots they've been facing, which is currently at 34 through three games. Obviously it's a small sample size, but that number has to come down. And if Nashville brings the same maniacal forecheck that gave the Hawks fits in April, the forwards are going to need to come down to help out the defensemen on breakouts, and then chip-and-chase exiting the zone. Sounds simple enough, but it took the Hawks 3 games to figure out back then. Oh, and put low, hard shots on Lindback, who's even taller than Rinne at 6'6", and crash the net. Make him have to commit to playing a low shot and then change directions quickly. If he's allowed to stay upright, he'll be able to cover a lot of ground laterally for anything that moves cross-ice. It's been over four months since the U.C. faithful have seen a win on home ice, tonight would be a nice night for that little streak to end.
Let's Go Hawks.