And now we enter the home stretch of what is starting to feel like an eternity away from the United Center. Tonight the Hawks take on the Stars in Dallas in the penultimate game of their 6-game road trip, and it's a game that both teams desperately need. For the hosting Stars, things have gotten a bit rockier in their last 10 games, going 4-5-1 and now being tied in points (but holding a tiebreaker) over the scorchingly hot San Jose Sharks with 66 points in the Pacific. The loquacious Darryl Reaugh also pointed out yesterday that the Stars are only 5-4-4 in their last 13 at home, and the difference has been the PK, where they've surrendered 12 goals in their losses (regulation or OT), and only allowed one goal total in those 5 wins. That PK has dropped to 25th overall at 79%, and has been getting torched by some of the more proficient power play units in the league (notably the Canucks and Flyers). This all could be symptomatic of Kari Lethtonen wearing down after not shouldering this type of workload since the Carter administration, as he's lost 4 straight decisions and 5 of his last 6. Dallas is also going to be missing some of their sandpaper as a result from getting the blanket party treatment from the Bruins last week, as Adam Burish and Krys Barch will not be in the lineup tonight. And while Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson just keep racking up the points, the skill quotient of the Stars will also be down a bit as well with Jamie Benn also currently nursing a shoulder injury. This will also be the Hawks first glimpse at the Stars with Jamie Lanenbrunner, who only has 4 points in 12 games since coming over from New Jersey.
For the Men of Four Feathers, tonight marks the first game in the Michael Frolik era, as he'll be skating on the second line with Troy Brouwer and centered by Tomas Kopecky (BARF). Frolik stated in no uncertain terms at the morning skate that he prefers to play wing, which kinda shoots the whole "depth at center" bullshit Stan Bowman was spouting right in the ass. That line configuration would also indicate that Marian Hossa will be out tonight with vertigo or the flu or ebola or whatever it is he's got now (have the doctors looked for a bad case of "invisible"?), though he's currently listed as doubtful. Ryan Johnson and whatever it is he does will be on the fourth line tonight as well. There was nothing coming out of practice to indicate any change in the defensive pairings, but the guess here is that they go back to the "traditional" configurations after the first time Richards and Eriksson pin Keith and Leddy in their own zone for an entire shift. Backstopping this Rorschach painting will be Marty Turco, making his not-so-triumphant return to Dallas for the first time, and his first crack at his former mates. It'd be hard to believe that Turcs is anything less than jacked out of his mind for this one, so don't be surprised if he either looks like one of the Jesse White Tumblers in the crease, or gets yanked in the first from letting in some bad ones, as there doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground here. Given the state of the Stars PK of late, the Hawks will need to figure some shit out quick on the power play, as making Dallas pay there seems to be the key to a much needed two points. This is a pivotal weekend for the Hawks, and they'd be well served to getting off on the right foot.
And don't forget to clear your Saturday night schedule (as well as your Sunday morning into the late afternoon for the resultant hangover) to come hang out with us at the Bottom Lounge (1375 W. Lake) for the Coyotes game and the Chicago Pucks Cancer benefit. Let's go Hawks.