TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
Knights of Columbus: The Cannon
Set 'Em Up, Country Music, It's Party Night!: Bottom Lounge (1375 W. Lake)
Six months ago, if you had woken up today, April Fool's day, and looked at the NHL standings either on the web or in the paper and seen the Blackhawks barely hanging on to the eight seed in the west with six games to play, you probably would have figured someone was yanking your crank in the spirit of the day. But alas, here we find ourselves on April 1st looking at the standings, and it is no ruse. The Hawks find themselves in a mad scramble for standings points with nine days and six games left in the schedule, the first of which is tonight in Columbus against the Blue Jackets. The Beej's come into tonight's game having lost in OT to Ovie and the Capitals last night, which eliminated them officially from post season contention. Adding injury to insult, goalie Steve Mason left the game with a groin injury, and the Jackets were already missing captain Rick Nash to a groin injury of his own. While unconfirmed reports out of Columbus state that Nash likely sustained the injury while wiener tucking, Aaron Portzline has confirmed that both Nash and Mason will miss tonight's game. This puts Mathieu Garon in net for the Jackets with David Leneveu backing him up. Given Mason's *ahem* iffy performance since his Calder campaign, the dropoff shouldn't be precipitous, and Garon actually boasts a better GAA than Mason at 2.71 in 26 starts and 6 relief appearances. Elsewhere in the lineup, Ethan Moreau, Chris Clark, Craig Rivet, Andrew Murray, and Grant Clitsome were all missing as well from last night's game. At first blush it would figure to be a bunch of AHL'ers out there, but the so-called Jackets gave division-leading Washington all they could handle last night in D.C. So look for the likes of R.J. Umberger, Kristian Huselius, and newly minted Hawk-killer Matt Calvert to do their damndest to piss all over the division rival Hawks' playoff hopes.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, the final kick begins tonight, and a bare minimum of 6 points of a possible 12 are going to be necessary to play past next Sunday, even with Dallas and Calgary falling by the wayside with every passing game. In the past 5 games the Hawks have scored a grand total of 10 goals in Patrick Sharp's absence, and four of those came against the Panthers. That, of course, has led to Coach Q pulling the lever on the ol' Line Slot Machine, which somehow resulted with Bryan Bickell alongside Toews and Kane, Marcus Kruger centering the Slovaks, Dowell centering Brouwer and Pisani, and Frolik and Stalberg flanking Ryan Johnson. WOOF. Though with Sharp and Bolland out, there aren't a lot of appetizing options to be found with this lot, and Frolik and Stalberg together may prove to be an interesting combination- and by that I'm referring to the potential of being comically bad even against Columbus' fourth line bums. On defense, the names will remain the same, but the configurations of the lower two pairs seem to change from shift to shift, and the ice time for Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Brian Campbell continues to mount. Hopefully this will be a game where Nick Leddy can be trusted with more than six minutes of ice time, but the Hawks never make things that easy, do they? In a similar vein, tonight would have been ideal for Marty Turco to finally allow Corey Crawford a breather, but the situation being what it is, Crow will once again be in the crease tonight despite the fact that Turco is 3-0 against Columbus and Crawford is 0-2.
And of course, how could I forget that we're having a road watch tonight at Bottom Lounge, 1375 W Lake for the uninitiated, a mere 3 minute walk east from the Ashland Green Line stop. As usual there will be drink specials abound, and Killion should already be in rare form due the festivities currently going on for his self-declared Opening Day holiday. So swing on by after work, who the hell needs to go straight home on a Friday anyway? With any damn luck, it'll be a positive start to the weekend for all. But we've said that before and been bitten squarely in the ass haven't we? Let's go Hawks.