Though it feels like we've already been through this when the New Jersey Devils came to town, tonight's visitor, the Ottawa Senators, make the Hawks' situation look downright sunny and harmonious. A year after somehow making the playoffs despite trading away malcontent/worst wheel man ever Dany Heatley, the Senators now find themselves near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, which is no easy feat. The Sens enter tonight at 16-19-5, and their last game was nearly a week ago; a 5-1 dong whipping at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Yes, you read that correctly. Captain and Ottawa fixture Daniel Alfredsson leads them in goals and points with a stat line of an anemic 12G-12A-24P, and clearly deserves better in the waning stages of his career. Lewis Skolnick sound-alike Jason Spezza has been out since injuring his shoulder on Boxing Day, during which time the Sens have lost 3 straight, scoring 4 goals total in those games. There's not much else going on up front for Ottawa, as Mr. Carrie Underwood Mike Fisher is currently carrying a -12 and is now being relied upon to do more offensively with Spezza out, and Alexei Kovalev continues to offend my hockey sensibilities even at an advanced age.
Speaking of disinterested Russian imports, that thud you heard last night was the luggage handlers at O'Hare tossing Sergei Gonchar's -20 off the plane. Raise your hand if you're shocked that he has no use for his own zone after getting a sizeable paycheck from a mediocre team. One-time defensive stalwart Chris Phillips is only marginally better at -15, and he's no doubt counting his days until he gets traded to a contender looking for blue line depth. Gonchar magically starts to give a shit while on the advantage, however, with the Senators power play clicking at an incongruous 19.0 percent, good for 10th in the league while managing to be second to last in total scoring at 2.3 goals per game. Seeing that stat contrasted with tonight's starter Brian Elliott's 3.07 GAA, and you start to get a good idea about things in the Canadian capitol. And this is all while speaking nothing of the dick-waving contest between owner Eugene Melenyk, GM Bryan Murray, and coach Cory Clouston, which makes what's going on between Stan and Q look like a productive power lunch complete with conference calls and boxed sandwich meals from Jimmy John's. But, despite all this, the Hawks have found out the hard way at home from New Jersey and Edmonton TWICE what happens when you take a weakened opponent lightly.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, the roster slot machine continues to spin, this time with Jassen Cullimore being sent to Rockford and Nick Leddy coming up to take his place. While Cullimore has been serviceable in the bottom pair, based on his being waived two weeks ago, it appears as though this was a pre-determined move to take a look at Leddy after the World Juniors. Leddy will be paired with Jordan Hendry as Nick Boynton mercifully continues to sit, where he'll join John Scott and Ryan Johnson. This means, that other than Tomas Kopecky, it looks like there will be a fully competent lineup hitting the ice tonight, with lines of 25-19-88, 82-10-81, 29-36-15, and 22-28-20. I like the looks of those lines a lot better than what we saw on Wednesday, but at this point, I'll settle for anything that keeps Kopecky the fuck away from a faceoff dot. Corey Crawford gets the start again in net tonight, his third in a row.
While tonight isn't must-win per se, the Hawks have left far too many points on the table at home this year, and too many of those to bad teams. Tonight is another such instance, and quite frankly, if I don't get to hear jungle drums, I'm going to be pissed. Let's go Hawks.