Maybe I'll Catch Fire - Hawks @ Flames Preview/Pregame Thread/Beer Run

Images_medium @ Humantorch_medium
Game time: 8:30PM CST
TV/Radio: CSN (US), TSN (Canada), WGN-AM 720
Rural Alberta Advantage: Matchsticks and Gasoline

After the last couple of years' worth of matchups between the Hawks and Calgary Flames, one would think that at some point the indignities they've suffered would manifest themselves in at least a little bit of snarl, if not necessarily W's. But as the Hawks head southbound into an already frigid Cow Town, it would be foolish to so hastily assume that the Flames will once again play Roger Dorn to the Hawks' ground ball. The Sutter Family Circus will certainly never be accused of being boring, even as the last couple of days have shown. GM Darryl Sutter is such a red ass that he traded his own son Brett along with under-appreciated Ian White (who is in a contract year) to Carolina for Tom Kostopolous and yet another former Hawk, Anton Babchuk. Additionally, Finnish punchline Olli Jokinen will be sitting out tonight's contest as well as his next two for crosschecking Wojtek Wolski in the head, something we here at the SCH offices have admittedly fantasized about doing.

The recent news has somewhat diverted attention from the Flames on-ice play, as they find themselves currently in the midst of a 7 game funk wherein they've gone 1-6, with all of those losses in regulation. Goalie/masochist Miikka Kiprusoff has been saddled the last 5 of those losses, and has been saddled with his usual workload, appearing in 15 of the Flames 17 games so far. His 2.75 GAA and .905 save percentage are a far cry from the one-time Vezina winner, as the miles that both Mike Keenan and now Brent Sutter continue to put on him take their toll. Those numbers are actually even more galling when coupled with the 28.9 shots that Calgary allows per game, which while not excellent, is certainly far from a total shooting gallery. As was mentioned above, Anton Babchuk and his bazooka of a right handed shot joins the Calgary d-corps, which is still anchored by the consistent Robyn Regehr, and Jay Bouwmeester who has returned to action after taking a sabbatical for last season. Up front, for the first time in a decade or more, the Flames are being paced by someone not named Jarome Iginla. Rene Bourque has seemingly become the power forward we were always skeptical he'd be with the Blackhawks, and leads the team with 15 points and 9 goals. Alex Tanguay and Brendan Morrison have somewhat shockingly been mildly productive as well, as it's Iginla who is dragging around a -7 and only 3 goals to this point. And I'm sure Iggy will be completely thrilled to see Dave Bolland again.

As for the visiting Men of Four Feathers, they're entering town coming off their most convincing win of the year to this point on Wednesday, a 5-0 dick-kicking of Edmonton. Yes, it is the Oilers and that's what they're supposed to do, but the most recent iteration of the top line with Jonathan Toews (he of Wednesday's natural hat trick), Viktor Stalberg, and birthday boy Patrick Kane have shown some real offensive chemistry in their last two games together. The second line of Bolland, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa, have yet to fully click together, but there have been flashes. The bottom six from the last two games remain the same also, where Jack Skille and Jake Dowell have begun to round into form nicely. However, if anyone's seen Troy Brouwer, I'm sure his wife would be interested in his whereabouts. On the blue line things appear to remain the status quo as well, which means we can look forward to more top flight play from Brian Campbell, and Nick Boynton continually taking himself out of position to make a hit, knowing that Duncan Keith at least should be able to cover for him. Marty Turco, coming off his first Hawks shutout somewhat curiously gets the nod in net tonight on the front end of a back to back, with Vancouver looming tomorrow. Turco's puck handling, however, should dull what's likely to be a rabid Calgary forecheck against the Hawks rearguards.

Some of the faces may have changed for both teams, but it'll still be a similar matchup in styles as it has been the past few years. Calgary's d-men, while sturdy and physical, are not the fleetest of foot, and that can be exploited. And while he certainly has the potential of doing backflips in the crease and channeling his 2004 self, the more pucks that are put on Kipper, the better. If the Hawks from the last two games show up for a full 60 tonight, it should be a happy birthday for Kaner. That's always a big "if" though, isn't it? Let's go Hawks.