TV/RADIO: CSN, WGN Radio
Nassau County Gathering: Lighthouse Hockey
The title is a nod to the Rangers fans among us, there's got to be a couple. The fact that they still chant this at the Garden decades after Potvin's career ended tells you everything about how deranged and yet wonderful Rangers fans can be. I'd say Islanders fans are the same, except I haven't met any outside of Dominik at Lighthouse Hockey.
Anyway, the Hawks will try and scrub off the unclean feeling of whatever Tuesday's beer burp was against Phoenix. You've probably heard about the lineup changes by now, but to review the Hawks are back where they started at training camp, with Marcus Kruger at the #2 center, trying to find the targets for Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp to shoot down. At first glance it's a wonky fit having Sharp and Hossa on opposite wings. But it could work if A)Kruger is the playmaker he's been sold as and has shown flashes of with his power play time and B) if Hossa's power game and Kruger's vision provide those areas that Sharp just ghosts into and hides before he scores. It's hard to argue that Kruger hasn't earned this shot, though a home game against the Islanders isn't the test that the scarf-knife fight that Hitch's Blues in St. Louis will be tomorrow.
The other change that looks to be coming is that Ben Smith will replace the collection of organs that make up Bryan Bickell these days. It's something that's needed to happen for a while, but Q biffed it last time by tabbing Scott to replace Bicks upon his last healthy scratch. Smith will at least try to make all the hits that Bickell continually turned down, and his IQ should mean he's not out of place on a checking line. And if he can provide a forecheck as well, so much the better.
As for the Islanders, at least those colors are sweet. They're once again the coal-shovelers for the good ship Eastern Conference, and aren't allowed to fraternize with the guests. This team doesn't even average two goals a game, and their 43 total on the year puts them nine behind everyone else. But they've won their last two, and carry some threat in the form of their goaltender.
Local product Al Montoya, who McClure suggested has a story about him from every beer league player in the greater Chicagoland area and our Twitter feed seems to be confirming, has been something of a revelation since washing up at the Last Chance Saloon that is Nassau County for a lot of players. He stole his last start against Buffalo, and is rocking a SV% over .930 at the moment. If the Hawks don't do the things necessary to score, i.e. getting traffic in front and going to the net hard, they could find themselves a victim of a frustrating Montoya masterpiece. We've seen it before.
If they avoid that, though, it's hard to see how the Islanders can score enough to keep up. That becomes doubly true if they can hold John Tavares down. Tavares started the season on fire with 16 points in 16 games. But he's found life tougher since teams have begun really keying on him, though that doesn't mean he's incapable of hurting you, especially if Dave Bolland's game continues to be wonky. Michael Grabner can hurt you with his speed, and Frans Nielsen might be the most underrated center around.
But even with promising youngster Travis Hamonic, this blue line should be exposed, especially when Milan Jurcina and Mike Mottau lurch their way onto the ice. Andrew MacDonald might not go, with Dylan Reese filling in and providing another to exploit.
Starts three games in four, and the Hawks need them all. Let's have it.
A Special Treat For You All
Because I'm the nicest guy in the world. today I'm providing the online version of tonight's Committed Indian to anyone who would like it. Just click the link. For those who are out of town or might not be familiar, this is the unofficial game program I do for every Hawks home game. If you like what you see here, you can sign up for a season long subscription via one of the two links on the left there, and you'll get it in your inbox for every home game! And who wouldn't want a little Sam in their inbox?