Tonight is the official midway point of this season, and to say that some of the results have been wanting is the understatement of the year even though we're a mere 3 days deep into 2011. It's been an exercise in frustration and underachievement, and things don't get any easier tonight on the back-end of the SoCal 2-fer at Staples for the final meeting of the year with the Kings. This is not to say that the Kings haven't had struggles of their own, however. The Kings have lost 3 straight and have given up 14 goals in the process. Despite that, their team defense and goaltending remains as solid as you'll find in the league even with Willie Mitchell missing significant time. However, the problem is the same that we've reiterated before - all depth with only Anze Kopitar providing legitimate top-end scoring, as he leads the team with 41 points, 33 of which have come at even strength. Newcomer Marco Sturm has provided 2 goals and an assist since finally suiting up after his trade from Boston, which was about all that can be expected. At this point of the year, we know what the Kings are about- a north-south game wherein they fire shots from any and every angle, and send their forwards to the crease like free shots of pussy flavored whiskey are being given out there. Even minus Mitchell, the blue line is as solid as they come with Rob Scuderi, Matt Greene, Jack Johnson, and the very cross-checky Drew Doughty, who has underwhelmed offensively this year as the heir-apparent to the Norris trophy. Jonathan Quick figures to start tonight after Jonathan Bernier got torched by the Flyers for 6 goals on 22 shots on Thursday, as Quick's stat line still contains a sterling 2.02 GAA and .925 save percentage.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, captain Jonathan Toews is returning to the lineup tonight (and don't you dare say it's too early, or because of the Hawks' 0-3 skid since he was felled in St. Louis). Prior to that news, there were also rumblings of a "team meeting" this morning, where it can only be speculated that "let's stop sucking" was first and foremost on the agenda for discussion. Time and games are quickly running out for the Hawks, who currently sit in last place in the Central due to games in hand held by other teams, so they'll need to turn the corner post-haste. For starters, Patrick Kane will need to be more visible, and not just when he's roping down the corpse of Teemu Selanne from behind. Marian Hossa also only has 1 goal in his last 17 games after his furious start, and more is needed from him as well. While both may still be feeling lingering effects of their respective injuries, the fact of the matter is that if they're in the lineup, they need to produce. As of the time of this writing, there has been no word as to to the scratches for tonight, but one would hope against hope that John Scott and Nick Boynton will remain out, though the curiously benched Jake Dowell may find himself on the outside looking in tonight. Skille and Stalberg looked fantastic reunited on a line yesterday, and keeping their speed together on a line would certainly behoove the Hawks against the massive, physical, but not fleet-footed Los Angeles D. Corey Crawford once again gets the start in net tonight, and that looks to be a fairly common occurrence from here on out barring a massive change. The excuses, half-assed play, and shit head decision making stop tonight. They have to. Let's go Hawks.