Game time: 6:00PM
TV/Radio: WGN Ch. 9, WGN-AM 720
Big Man With A Gun: The Cannon
I hope everyone had a fantastic and bounty-filled Christmas, and that Santa brought you exactly what you wanted. Fresh off their crown roast, fruit cake, egg nog, and whatever else, the Columbus Blue Jackets descend upon the United Center tonight for what will be their first meeting since the Blow-J's beat the Hawks October 23rd on West Madison. Captain and purported wiener tucker Rick Nash and his cohorts come into tonight having last played on Thursday, having gotten spit roasted by the Nucks at home 7-3. Furthermore, the Jackets are 3-6-2 in their last 11, surrendering 43 goals during that stretch. What started out as a promising turnaround campaign for new coach Scott Arniel has the potential of going tits up in a hurry at this rate. Part of the reason for the absurd goal totals against has been Arniel's desire to play up-tempo, but not really having the blue line necessary to bail the forwards out when they're caught deep and giving up chances against after the top pair. Marc Methot and Rosti Klesla are +12 and +14 respectively. It's gotten bad enough elsewhere that Mike Commodore will be a healthy scratch tonight, as has been his m.o. recently. Mathieu Garon has fared slightly far better than probable-bust Steve Mason with a 2.22 GAA and .917 save percentage (as opposed to Mason's 3.26 and .901 respectively) and he'll get the start tonight. Up front, the Jackets are predictably paced by the big-faced Nash with 17 goals and 26 points, though R.J. Umberger has complimented nicely with 10G and 14A and boasts +7, best among forwards. But these are even middling numbers as the Jackets have the second worst power play in the league at 11.9%, and are 22nd in total scoring with 2.5 goals per game. The Jackets should come out looking to push the pace tonight to get the salty aftertaste of Thursday out of their mouths quickly, so the Hawks will need to be prepared to weather that storm.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, it seems there was plenty under the tree yesterday, though not everything that was on their wish list. Marian Hossa and Viktor Stalberg will return to the lineup tonight, though Patrick Kane will remain out, and was placed on injured reserve retroactive to his last game. Furthermore, Corey Crawford must've had too many helpings of sweet potatoes, as he will be out for tonight as well with an illness, leaving Marty Turco to start and Hannu Toivonen (it's so fun if you say it like Jerry Lewis...TOIVONEN! LADY!) has been called up to back him up. As for how the lines will be configured tonight, it's really anyone's damn guess, but one would have to imagine that John Scott and Jordan Hendry will be enjoying the view from the press box, even if Hendry's play at forward warrants him giving either Jassen Cullimore or Nick Boynon a night off on the blue line. The Hawks have won their last four games keeping things simple and swarming to loose pucks in front of Crawford, and they'll have to continue that trend tonight with Turco in net, who hasn't won since his shutout in Edmonton a month and a half ago. Hossa and Stalberg's presence in the lineup should be quite conducive to the game that the Hawks have found themselves playing, though one would hope that their return isn't an indicator to the rest of the team that they can take their collective foot off the gas one iota, and the Hawks are a full 60 minute effort away from a successful homestand. Let's go Hawks.