FACEOFF: 6pm Central
TV/RADIO: WGN for both
FRIENDS IN LOW PLACES: On The Forecheck
The Hawks continue their late season homestand with another encounter with a bottom-feeder of the league, this time in their own division with the Nashville Predators. While the Carolina Hurricanes barely roused the Hawks’ attention, the Predators’ recent success against the Hawks should have them more tuned in whatever their current standing.
Both teams will come in missing some vital parts. The Hawks didn’t skate this morning, so I can only guess that both Bryan Bickell and Brandon Saad will miss out again, joining longer term absentees Patrick Kane and Michal Rozsival in the hurt locker. They both did partake in an optional skate yesterday, so one or both could slot in but we won’t know until closer to gametime.
Which also makes it unlikely, in my mind, that the Teuvo Debut will come tonight either. Our plucky little Finn has only had the one morning skate with his teammates, and I can’t see him being tossed in without a little more time here. Tuesday would at least see another morning skate in the bag, with possibly a practice tomorrow. Or it could be even Thursday in Boston when he’s had a few more days, though it would seem cruel to have his first game in the NHL be presented with Krejci, Bergeron, Chara, and the rest of those monsters on the other side.
For the Predators, Paul Gaustad and Patrick Eaves are a no go. Patric Hornqvist will also not play as he just had his first child yesterday and is back in Tennessee. To compensate, promising prospect Filip Forsberg made the journey down I-94 this morning from Milwaukee and could slot right in on the top line. He hasn’t had the most hardy season in the AHL, but he’s still only 19 and is one of the few forwards anywhere in the organization that could provide some flash. That is until Barry Trotz chokes it out of him, of course.
Life’s been rough for the Predators since they triumphed here nine days ago when the Hawks couldn’t really be bothered to do any of the things they needed to. They were stuffed in succession by the Blues, Oilers, and Canucks to the tune of a combined score of 11-2. They somewhat rebounded with a 6-5 win over the Flames in Calgary on Friday.
Part of that is Pekka Rinne has hit a wall in his return from injury and has been lit up for 13 goals in his last three starts. He wasn’t particularly good in Calgary either and was yanked for Carter Hutton. I wouldn’t be shocked if Hutton got the start tonight because of that. If he does, it should be go time for the Hawks, but with Rinne’s current form it should be that regardless.
This is the last of a four-game roadtrip for the Preds, and has seen them rumble through Western Canada. They could be longing to get home already, so the Hawks should jump on them early to see just how much interest they have. The Preds usually are never short on work-rate, but a squad that’s dead and buried and at the end of a trip is always ripe to be short on give-a-shit.
Because it’s the Preds, and because the Hawks are short on regulars themselves, they’ll have to be much better at implementing Predator-repellent than they were the last time they played. The Hawks still tried their circus routine in the neutral zone, either stretch passes or trying to beat three guys one-on-one. They didn’t show much gusto along the walls in any zone, which is where the Preds do their work. They Hawks have to dumb it down tonight, and outnumber or at least outwork the Predators on the boards when they’re forced to chip and dump the puck in. Whatever the Preds interest level is, they don’t have a lot of size on the back end outside of Shea Weber (Jones isn’t a physically dominant force yet, but wait a year or two) and if the Hawks use their speed below the goal lines, they should find enough to get by. Crawford’s rebound control will have to be much better than it was last time, where Nashville got two first-period goals on pizzas lying in the slot. Stay out of the box too, because the PP is where Nashville can do most of its damage with Shea Weber and his boomstick firing away from the point.
The Hawks could find themselves just two points back of St. Louis and five ahead of Colorado if things break their way. Let’s have it.
If you’re not going to tonight’s game, you can pick up the PDF of tonight’s Committed Indian right here. And if you are going, pick up a hard copy from one of our vendors to help keep us warm.