GAMETIME: 7:30pm Central
TV/RADIO: CSN, WGN Radio
BEAKED BEATS: Anaheim Calling
I know I saw Howard The Duck when I was a kid, and I know it's considered one of the worst movies of all time. All I can piece together from a very hazy recollection is that as a child I found it weird and a bit scary. I think. I could be confusing it with any other film I saw as a kid that I don't remember all that well. If it was as bad as is generally thought, it would have a lot in common with the Ducks that show up on Madison tonight.
We'll get to them in a minute. First for our beloved red and black, Ben Smith was recalled last night as Dan Carcillo is out tonight with some malady that probably has to do with getting hit in the face a few times against Minnesota. While Agent Smith didn't do...well, anything in his first stint here, I think that maybe the switch to the fourth line is what he might need to be noticeable. A reduction in responsibility, a call to do what he does well, i.e. just kind of have energy and run around a bit, might suit him. We'll see, and whatever it results in won't have much bearing on whether the Hawks win or lose tonight.
Ray Emery gets another start, and it's hard to argue against that. He backed up a solid performance against San Jose with an even better one in Minnesota, and there's nothing wrong with riding the hot hand. Or at least hotter hand, though you wouldn't need a functioning toaster oven to be warmer than Corey Crawford. With four games in six days before we all adjourn to spending more time with the family than we'd like for Christmas (or as it's known around my house, watching the Bulls), Crow will probably get a start here soon. And there's always the extra motivation Razor might have in putting one over on his former employers. The rest of the lineup remains as you remember.
To the Ducks. How many different ways can we state that they suck? One one thousand! Two one thousand! Three one thousand! In all seriousness, or as close to seriousness as we get (you wouldn't go for it on 4th down), the Ducks are having a complete balls-up of a season. It's hard to pinpoint anything they do even passable, except for maybe the penalty kill. However, because it's Anaheim tradition to be think between the ears and conga line to the penalty box all game, it gets a lot of work.
As you know, the Ducks jettisoned fat crank Randy Carlyle and replaced him with fatter crank Bruce Boudreau, apparently with the thinking that the Ducks didn't have enough of a waiting Vesuvius behind the bench. They have played with some more verve since ol' Hot Sauce Face showed up, as any team with a coaching change would. He's tried to unleash them a bit, and with Cam Fowler and Lubomir Visnovsky on the backend that makes some sense. However, it should lead to a greater exposure of an entire blue line that stares at defensive responsibility like a 3-D painting, with the requisite mouth agape expression. The Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf should benefit too, that is if they can bothered to actually connect "giving", "flying" and "fuck", which they haven't always this year. Getzlaf especially has been a total dog at times. The first step might be admitting he's bald. It worked wonders for me, and I was much younger than Getz when I did.
Oh, and Selanne will score an annoying goal, because that's what he does against the Hawks. Bobby Ryan has been moved to his line to try and spread things out. Making things worse for the Ducks is that Saku Koivu appears to be out, and he was actually having a standout season amongst the overflowed sewer pipe around him.
I'd talk about the rest of the Ducks, but there's little point. You wouldn't know them if they walked naked through your front yard.
Jonas Hiller has had his struggles this year, with a GAA over 3 and a SV% under .900. Maybe that whole vertigo thing isn't over, maybe he's just having a hard time adjusting after missing so much time. Either way, we know how many games he's completely picked the Hawks' pockets in the past. So even though the numbers might suggest as many holes in him as Bugsy Malone when all is said and done, I don't feel completely safe.
The Hawks have had an annoying capacity to do whatever is just enough to beat an opponent. The only one they've truly tonked recently was St. Louis. As satisfying as that was (and it was groin-grabbingly so), it's time for another. The Hawks should come out firing in the 1st period, and any multiple goal lead should see the Ducks slink off into whatever shadowy corner they emerged from. While the last time these two met ended 6-5, if you watched that game you know the Hawks pretty much turned the Ducks into silly putty for most of it, and if it wasn't for Crawford being one of those inflatable dancing dudes you see at car dealerships, it could have easily been 6-2 or 6-1.
So make it so.