So it really has come to this, what we all most feared: the Hawks needing 3 points of 4 in the season ending home-and-home with the cyborgs of Scum, the first of which comes tonight at the Unicomplex that is the Joe. However, as unideal as the situation is, there are some positives that can be looked at coming into tonight's tilt. First, the Hawks are still in control of their own fate, and not drones to the will of the hive that is the rest of the Western Conference, though their grip on that is tenuous. Second, both Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall are to miss both games this weekend, as they were not able to adapt to the modulated frequency phaser blasts to their upper and lower bodies respectively. But that still won't make it any easier, as Scum have a history of assimilating bums very quickly into their collective consciousness and becoming productive players, which will be likely be defenseman Jakub Kindl's charge tonight with Kronwall out. Additionally, Scum has been sputtering a bit of late, going 4-4-2 in their last 10 games, one of which was the hilarious 10-3 fisting at the hands (get it?) of the Blues. The most recent of those games was Wednesday's game against Carolina (apparently the Hawks aren't the only ones with odd inter-conference scheduling), and Scum was blanked by an incredibly desperate Canes squad. Even with Jared Leto in the pressbox, Pavel Datsyuk is back in the lineup, which is never a pleasant thing to deal with. He's only had an assist so far in his two games back, but the Hawks doubt his effectiveness at either end at their own peril, and he figures to see a lot of Toews tonight. Even with the division clinched, Scum can still improve their position with respect to San Jose with wins, so doubting their desire to fully compete would also be foolhardy. Elsewhere in the lineup is the familar cast of asswipes, chief among them Todd Bertuzzi, who I'm sure we'd all like to see receive his comeuppance...were the situation not so dire, or if the Hawks had anyone that could actually administer a proper retribution. Jimmy Howard figures to start tonight, and since returning from injury, he's been 2-1 and allowed 8 goals on 95 shots in those games. Though things might be essentially locked up for Scum, this will be about the furthest thing from a Holodeck simulation imaginable, as the will of the Hive remains the same - eradication of their opposition as a means of achieving perfection.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, they figure to once again to rely on their top-tier talent, and of late, that has began with their own version of Locutus, Marian Hossa. Hossa has had 8 straight games of at least 21 minutes, but has only produced 5 points during that stretch as the Hawks struggled to find maximum warp offensively. That should be aided tonight, as Hossa will be on Captain Toews' wing, along with the recently returned Lt. Cmdr. Sharp, reforming a tactical unit that led to a fair bit of success last spring. Speaking of hyperspace, the Hawks' own doctor and tequila enthusiast, Patrick Kane, has been absolutely flying lately, so much so his warp signature could likely be spotted by the Vulcans. He'll once again flank Ensigns Michael Frolik and Ben Smith, who per the responsibilities of the job, will likely find themselves disposed of by the enemy in short order...or at least reassigned to a different line. Further down the lineup, Q in his infinite omnipotence has reunited the bum-slaying line of Ryan Johnson, Viktor Stalberg, and Tomas Kopecky. This is oddly encouraging, and as a result disturbing, as I have no idea why that line has been effective, but all that matters is that it remains so tonight. A fourth line of Fernando Pisani, Jake Dowell, and Bryan Bickell seems about as unpleasant to watch as it just was to type.
On the back end, it truly is anyone's guess as to what the pairings will look like at the start of the game, but it's my sincere hope that despite having an excellent game on Wednesday, Nick Leddy will not be paired with Duncan Keith, as bad things tend to happen when they're paired together. Though Leddy receiving more ice time to keep the minutes of Keith, Seabrook, and Campbell down would certainly be welcome. Chief (Crease) Engineer Corey Crawford will start his 26th game in a row, and maybe this time the crew in front of him can keep the puck from deflecting off of them and into their own net, as has seemingly happened at least once a game for the last stretch, because Crawford has put together some exemplary performances otherwise during that time.
News broke this afternoon that Dave Bolland could be receiving a discharge from Sick Bay soon, which should raise everyone's spirits, but the Hawks will have to get to the playoffs first to make it matter. That starts tonight, where the Hawks will need to to stay out of the box and send waves of attackers at Jimmy Howard, keep Datsyuk from dictating the play, but above all else, play an entire 60 minutes with the desperation and desire that the situation dictates. Make it so. Let's go Hawks.