Tonight We Mean It - Blue Jackets vs Hawks Preview, Pregame Thread, Deposition

Ion_cannon_medium vs Images_medium
Game Time: 7:30 PM
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 72
Knights of Columbus: The Cannon

Despite the win on Wednesday, the Hawks still remain 4 points out of a playoff spot with 25 left to play. One of the few teams chasing the Hawks are tonight's visitors, the Columbus Blue Jackets, who trail the Hawks by 2 points, so tonight is an ol' fashioned 4-point game. The Jackets are coming off a shootout loss to the Kings on Wednesday themselves, but the bigger loss from that game was #1 center Derick Brassard, who will be out 2-3 weeks after injuring his hand blocking a shot (that'll teach him to ever attempt that again). Brassard's absence leaves a void on alleged wiener tucker Rick Nash's line, and I've yet to see anything stating whether it will be Antoine Vermette or R.J. Umberger stepping into that role tonight. The money is likely on Vermette, as Umberger himself was dinged in the L.A. game as well. Since their last meeting at the beginning of the Hawks' road trip, the Jackets had won 5 of 6 prior to Wednesday to interject themselves ever so slightly into the conference playoff race, but a glance at their team numbers again shows a team who doesn't do a whole bunch well buoyed by the parity/mediocrity of the conference. For the season, the Jackets allow 3.0 goals a game and score only 2.6, but during this run they've actually gotten some decent goaltending from their erstwhile Calder winning and franchise goalie Steve Mason, whose allowed only 8 goals in his last 5 starts since the Hawks were in Columbus, stopping 147 of 155 shots he's faced. However, Mason currently has bronchitis and missed Wednesday's game, so look for Mathieu Garon to get the nod tonight, whose goals against is tremendously lower than Mason's at 2.60. their save percentages are nearly identical, meaning that Columbus yields a full 4 fewer shots on goal when Garon plays.

As for our Men of Four Feathers, who will be donning home whites much to my delight, the message is once again simple: win it in 60. Mike Haviland will once again be patrolling the bench while Joel Quenneville remains away from the team with what's now been confirmed as an ulcer, though speculation still remains as to the cause of it, I'd venture to guess that this is a leading candidate. While we're on the subject of Slim Shady, he'll need to put down the bottle and/or broads for at least a couple nights out of the week if this team has any hope of getting into the post season, let alone advancing. Assuming whatever toxins ingested during the night in question are out of his system, a more productive Kane would certainly aid things offensively, as he's gone scoreless in the last two contests. Elsewhere the lineup stays the same, and the Frolik-Bolland-Hossa line will get another chance to find some more of the spark that flickered on Wednesday, though Hossa and Bolland have been thriving on the advantage in the last two. We'll also get to see if this Brouwer-Kopecky-Bickell thing might defy all reasonable expectation and not suck for a second game in a row. On the blueline will be the same inexplicable pairings as we've seen the last few, and Corey Crawford anchors this ship from his crease again. Enough of this season has been pissed away to games like these, there is no room for error anymore. Time to exert the skill most of us still believe you have. Let's go Hawks.