It's that time again. Now given that the Hawks have only played two games in the last 7 days, one would think that there wouldn't be a lot to pick from for this particular segment, but oh how wrong you'd be. With that said away we go to your Dead Week Between Christmas And New Year's edition of the Sugar Pile:
The Terrifying Lows
The Hawks' PK - There's still been no tangible or visible proof that this special teams unit has pulled itself out of the league's cellar in this department, but all is not lost. Though the Hawks are ranked 26th with a 78.3% kill rate, they're still only in the middle of the pack having given up 26 power play goals against, which is dead in the middle at being tied for 16th. If we also factor in the 3 shorties the Hawks have scored, that brings things down to 23 goals against, good for 12th in the league. The Hawks are bailed out by the fact that they aren't shorthanded all that frequently (120 times total, 4th best in the league), but the fact of the matter is that this unit needs a lot of tightening up. With any damn luck the return of Marian Hossa and the addition of Ryan Johnson will get things pointed north.
Viktor Stalberg's Self Esteem - Save for a brief stretch right before the Circus Trip, the chiseled Swede has consistently found himself in Q's doghouse, who apparently isn't swayed by a sparkling grin or puppy dog eyes. The knock on Stalberg has always been "want to" and that he will disappear after contact, which is why we saw many teams going out of their way to pick on him (see: Doughty, Drew). Even after he was cleared to play coming back from a concussion, the staff held him out of Wednesday's game, and after last night's tilt, was not skating with a line today in practice. There's no doubt he has all the talent in the world, but Quenneville seems hell bent on breaking him of his floating tendencies. With the cavalry coming back from the IR, Vik can ill-afford a misstep, lest he find himself sitting in the press box.
The Dizzying Highs
Bryan Bickell - Even though he's not the fleetest of foot and kinda looks like Sloth from Goonies, we've got to give credit where it's due, and Bickell's been finding the net with regularity lately. Part of it likely stems from having consistent linemates to play along side in the improving Dave Bolland and Fernando Pisani. Whatever the case is, Bickell is finding just enough time and space to unleash a wrister with a release that would make Dan Marino wazz all over his Isotoners, and it's led to a 6 game point streak, and points in 8 of his last 9, giving him 20 already for the year.
The Hawks' Injury Report - When last we spoke in this manner, the Hawks had 3 contributors missing time in Hossa, Kane, and Stalberg, and Pisani had just resumed playing. Now all but Kane are back in the lineup, and Kaner is likely to give it a go tomorrow in St. Louis. While every team deals with injuries, it's tough when 2 of the top 6 are missing, especially when those two are Kane and Hossa. The only hope is that Kane's return doesn't throw a wrench into what's developed into a fairly consistent north-south game.
The Creamy Middles
Patrick Sharp - With last night's 2 goal output, Sharp once again climbed back up to his point per game pace, giving him 20 goals and 36 points in as many games. While after the first of the year is when he habitually falls off the map, he's currently on pace to shatter his career best of 36 goals from 3 years ago. If everyone is returning healthy and functional, there's no reason for this pace to slow up.