GAMETIME: 6pm Central
TV/RADIO: CSN, WGN Radio
CAROLINA LINER: Canes Country
In all honestly, the Storm Squad is clearly superior to our Ice Crew, but I wonder if I'd say the same after the same up close glance at them that I've gotten at the Ice Crew (it is not pleasant). Whatever. I guess this will pass our first and probably only Sexy Friday, which 183 other blogs do.
The Hawks begin their first three in four days stretch of the year in Raleigh. Or Durham. Not sure it matters, it's North Carolina, where I'm sure the only objective is to steer clear of obnoxious Duke students (which is redundant). The Hawks report a clean bill of health once again, and seeing as how they've collected points in seven straight games, I doubt we see any chance in the lineup. If there's going to be one, Sami Lepisto will prove that he does in fact exist and replace Sean O'Donnell. Then again, seeing as how Quenneville has developed an inexplicable distaste for Steve Montador, maybe it's Monty who sits. Or maybe nothing changes. Those are all the possibilities.
As for the opponents tonight, the Canes are rolling a trio in every category, with their record at a clean 3-3-3. It even breaks nicely home and road, as they're 1-1-1 at RBC and 2-2-2 on the road. And they're pretty much in the middle of the pack in every category. What does all this mean? Well, a smarter man than with me in a science lab coat would probably tell you it means they're buried in the sands of the Desert of Mediocre. Scoping this roster and stats, I can't reach another conclusion.
Jeff Skinner has picked up where he left off last year, with 10 points in nine games. However, his defensive game has been woof-tastic as he sits at -5 and and a -2.9 in Behind The Net Rating. Behind him is lurking beast Eric Staal, who hasn't had the best of starts to the year but is always the main danger when you see the Hurricane warning symbols on the other bench. The only other name of note in Carolina is Cam Ward. If you looked at Ward's GAA, you wouldn't be too impressed. But then you check out his SV% of .919 this year and .923 last year, and consider that for all of that he was seeing on average 33 shots per game and you come to realize that Ward is one of the premier goalies around.
And part of the reason he sees so many shots is because this blue line is filled out with guys, who's-thats, and whatevers. They're kind of big, but not all that quick. Outside of Joni Pitkanen, there aren't any puck-carriers. I know Tomas Kaberle is considered one, but since his last couple years in Toronto all I've seen Kaberle do is skate around in some aimless pattern and wait until it's time to cash a check.
While the Hawks have racked up the points, I don't think we can sit here and say that they've piled up the impressive performances either. Phoenix and Colorado on the road were good, but the Hawks definitely didn't arrive for certain periods against Colorado and Anaheim at home. A let up here will see this contest become a lot harder than it needs to be, as the Canes have just enough weapons, and Cam Ward is capable of being inspirational, to hurt you. However, if the Hawks play a tight, smart road game, I can't see where the Canes can create enough for themselves to walk off with the points.