Game time: 7:00 PM
TV/Radio: Vs., WGN-AM 720
Oh yeah, I heard you're a farmer: Hockey Wilderness
When last we saw a hockey game on West Madison St., it was over three weeks ago, and the Hawks were farting away two points to current playoff picture interlopers the Minnesota Wild. Unfortunately for the Hawks, not much has changed since then, with the exception of the Wild now currently sitting 3 points ahead of the Hawks in the Western Conference standings. The Wild enter tonight having been unceremoniously dumped 4-1 at home by the Canucks, but had won 6 of 7 prior to that, and even last night only allowed a paltry 14 shots on net, with the deciding two goals at even strength. As we've reiterated before, the Wild, while not looking like much on paper, excel at special teams, particularly the power play where they're ranked 7th converting at an even 20%. The kill is no slouch either, ranked 11th, killing off 83 percent of chances against. Still leading the way are Mikko Koivu with 47 points, though he's been held goalless in his last 8 games, and former Hawk messiah Martin Havlat with 48, who has also been curiously quiet during this stretch, having only 4 points since the All-Star Break. Even with all that being said, the big statistical eye-popper on the Wild roster is that Cal Clutterbuck is leading them with 18 goals, and 4 in his last three games. So on top of leaving his feet, wearing a visor while doing so, his name, and his facial hair, he's now added "goal scoring" to his annoying resume. With Minny playing the second of a back to back, it will be Jose Theodore getting the start in net tonight, whose numbers are respectable for backing up Niklas Backstrom at 2.74 GAA and a .913 save percentage, and has won his last two starts against Colorado and St. Louis respectively. While Theo is a backup and his best days are behind him, he still occasionally channels his former Vezina & MVP self, and is a right-hand-catch, which always seems to befuddle Hawk shooters. The key will be to get to him early and not allow him a rhythm, as will be staying out of the box and not allowing Matt Cullen and Brent Burns to deal and tee off from the point.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, the big news of the day is that Coach Joel Quenneville has been hospitalized with an undisclosed condition, though reports are that it isn't of cardiac nature, which rules out a Lou Brown Major League 2-caliber tirade-and-grabber combo. Since we're left only to speculate, one of the more common guesses is an ulcer and/or alcohol poisoning from watching one too many Tomas Kopecky faceoff losses. Mike Haviland will assume head coaching duties in Q's stead, and all jokes aside we do wish him a speedy recovery. On the ice, the Hawks will be trotting out a new line of Michael Frolik and Marian Hossa flanking Dave Bolland, leaving a wasteland in the bottom 6 forwards. But times are getting dire, and Bolland's improved play combined with Frolik's skill coming from a left-handed shot could jump start Hossa and fill the void that the black hole of the second line has been for some time. After missing the last two days of practice, Patrick Kane will also be in the lineup tonight. All indications are that the defensive pairings are staying the same, so that means more fun miscommunication between Duncan Keith and Nick Leddy, at least when Leddy isn't getting plastered into the end boards by a forechecker.
The time for fucking around and underachieving is over, and that's now been driven home by the fact that the Hawks are basically killing their coach. Losing ground to a team in front of you in a playoff chase cannot happen, and if the Hawks can't get up for their first game at home in 3 weeks against said team while their coach is being intubated, then they can't really be helped. Come out pissing excellence like lives are depending on it, because they actually might be now. Let's go Hawks.