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Final Breath: Sharks at Hawks Game 4 Preview/Pregame Thread/Backyard Grill-Fest

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GAMETIME: 2pm Central

TV/RADIO: NBC (South of the 49th), TSN (North of it), WIND-560

Death Rattle: Fear The Fin

Another apology: I echo McClure in being extremely sorry we didn't get anything up yesterday. Head of Cyber Division was working a double, and both McClure and I were helping The Professor move (a lot of you know who that is) before I was on Indian duty. I assume GMH was at her monthly Skulls meeting. Won't happen again, at least for a week.

Anyway, we're hoping today is the day we've waited for for 18 years. That ended in Edmonton in four games, with Dirk Graham declining the opportunity to touch the Clarence Campbell Trophy. Johnny, take your cue. We stand at the precipice once again. I'd love to sit here and tell you the Sharks will just roll over and let the Reaper embrace them, but this Sharks team almost certainly won't. Though they threw their best punch on Friday and still came up empty, I doubt they're going to chuck it. So the Hawks will have to be on their game. And there's no reason not to be. Leave it all out there, and you'll have at least 6 days off before you get an opportunity of a lifetime.

It's not that the Hawks were bad on Friday, either. They just faced a team that was playing for its lives that is also extremely skilled, and there were a couple calls that certainly didn't help (hey look, I'm a Scum fan!). I can't recall the Hawks being jittery in their zone or not getting bodies in front or turning the puck over, the Sharks just played very well. Niemi once again declined them, and the Hawks eventually found their way. It was back and forth for a lot of it, except for the 3rd, which was torture. Quite simply the Hawks cashed in on the mistakes the Sharks made. Boyle firing off-balance with Toews in handshake distance, leading to Weapon's breakaway. Nabokov, Boyle, and Heatley turning into the Nairobi Trio (much dap to whoever gets that reference) while Buff waltzed into the slot for Bolland to find. So keep doing that, and it's all over.

But the Hawks shouldn't have to depend on Niemi today. They should come out breathing fire and crapping lightning, or however that's supposed to go. The Sharks "d" has struggled when attacked, and Thornton has been pinned in his own zone at times with whoever he's playing with. The Hawks don't have to change much. But get a lead early, and more than one goal. Let's see how much fight they have then with the building rocking and the Abyss quickly approaching. The Canucks sure didn't. Niemi had a tendency to let softies in early in the first couple rounds, let's not even give him the chance to do so.

Oh, and McClure wanted me to mention the ice will be shit. But that's part and parcel of playing deep into the spring. I don't know what you can do about it.

To The Cliffs!