One Scratch: Hawks at Preds Preview/Pregame Thread/Hoedown

200px-road_warrior_hawk_medium vs. 511-3_medium

TV/RADIO: WGN For both

Tonight begins the last stretch of the season that could see a clown juggling routine in seedings in the West. The facts are the Hawks sit two back of Scum in 5th and three back of the Preds in 4th, though at the moment they lose the tiebreaker to both. But it's not such a margin that couldn't change before the end of the season as well. A playoff spot is wrapped up with a solitary point or some combination of one of the teams in the Whiskey Dick-a-palooza of the Pacific Division dropping points. But I have no idea how that shakes out and would rather the Hawks just make it up themselves.

The other aspect at play is the Hawks psyche in regards to the Predators. All of us would really like to avoid a 1st round matchup with Nashville, and a 1-5 regular season record won't make us feel any better. Not sure 2-4 would be that much more encouraging, but scratching out a win in the Honky Tonk without Keith and Toews certainly wouldn't hurt the confidence.

Confidence won't be a problem for the Preds, who roll in after having carpet-bombed Scum in Bailout City last night. If you saw it, you know that 4-1 doesn't really do justice to how in control the Predators were of that game. Even Francis Bouillon scored. So they're going to be feeling their oats. Even on a back to back, considering that nothing is settled in the West yet I would imagine that Pekka Rinne is rolled right back out there tonight. We thought that might help last week, and it didn't. So don't think fatigue is going to kick in just because.

The Predators must drive the stat-heads nuts, because there are some numbers to suggest that their success is founded on a teetering branch hanging over a cliff. They're only +7 at even-strength, and they average getting outshot by almost three per game as well as giving up 30 shots per game. It's hard to call them an excellent defensive team when they surrender that many attempts at net. But Rinne bails them out, their special teams are exemplary, and well, you've seen enough of them to know that you don't want to see any more of them. While they're aren't any stars here, with the addition of Radulov this team can hurt you from pretty much every line. And they can certainly annoy from any line.

No lineup changes that I've seen for the Hawks tonight, though I think most of us would love to see Hayes come in for Bollig because you don't need a thug against the Predators but size in front of the net would be welcome. It's Crawford's net now, smart money says he gets the rest of the starts this season unless that last game doesn't mean anything. But it almost certainly will.

All of you could write the game plan against Nashville by now. Have to be clean getting the puck out of your zone, forget the stretch passes. Break as a four or five man unit, and no turnovers for the love of god. Don't get cute at the Preds blue line, pump the legs, and take advantage of whatever power plays you get. Though I guess I'll give up on that. And stay out of the box, unless you want Shea Weber summoning Zeus's lightning bolts all night. And you don't.

If the Hawks can take four of four points this weekend, and get a little help from the Cats tomorrow night in little Beirut on the Detroit River, come 9pm Sunday the Hawks could sit 4th in the Conference. But there's a first step to that.