RECORDS: Sabres 7-17-4 Hawks 12-11-5
PUCK DROP: 7:30pm
TV: NBCSN Chicago
THROUGH THE TABLE IN THE PARKING LOT: Die By The Blade
If the Hawks can’t get healthy now, then you might want to abandon all hope. They’ll begin a three-game homestand against the mat-shots of the league: the Sabres, Yotes, and Panthers. If you needed to work some shit out, start to gain a little confidence, and maybe find a slump-buster, you could hardly order this up better.
Once again, the Hawks will be rolling out a new look, including their first call-up of the season if you can believe it. Vinnie Smalls, a.k.a Vincent Hinostroza has come in from the cold, Rockford air to replace Tanner Kero on the roster. He immediately slots into the lineup, though where isn’t exactly clear as he wasn’t allowed to participate in the morning skate. Our best guess has him replacing Hartman at center between Sharp and Panik, but it could be anything. Because god forbid anyone on the juggernaut 4th line, with its 40 CF%, be replaced.
Other changes see Alex DeBrincat move into the top six. Real stroke of genius to get one of the league’s top rookie scorers there. He’ll play opposite Saad and next to Toews, which we’re actually kind of jonesing to see. It would work better if Saad and Top Cat would swap sides, but one thing at a time, people. The Schmaltz-Wide Dick Arty-Garbage Dick line is reunited, because they’re basically Q’s blanky right now. It doesn’t really add up, has its faults, but they did score when together before. And the Hawks need scoring.
Corey Crawford will return to the net, and if you’re thinking, “Man this seems quick,” you’d be right. The word earlier in the week was that he wouldn’t return until Sunday. But throw in a loss that had Q pretty pissed and purple, and suddenly you’ve got a panicky coach. And though you shouldn’t need Crawford against the Sabres, and though Forsberg has been pretty solid aside from one game in Denver and one bad goal in DC, Q isn’t waiting around, even if it shoots Forsberg’s confidence into the moon. Q thinks the Hawks need points and now, and he’s not totally wrong. But if Crow should re-aggravate something badly…
And again, you shouldn’t need major inspiration to find two points against this hillbilly station wagon that constitutes the Buffalo Sabres. This is the league’s worst team, which is a real disappointment for fans that thought they could maybe at least be representative this year. It’s been a mess, no one’s sure Phil Housley has any idea what he’s doing, and if there’s a plan in place no one can identify it. There’s still Jack Eichel, and he’s really good. The Other Asshole Kane is having a career year, which probably will get some team to hold their nose and pick him up before the deadline, and the Sabres had better turn that into assets for now and the future. Rasmus Ristolainen has had an upswing on the blue line this year, but that’s really it. We’ve always loved Kyle Okposo, but he’s on the third line at the moment. Ryan O’Reilly murders the Hawks, but is having a rough go at the moment, as he has two goals since November 11th and two points at all in his last seven. Aside from those names there is just nothing here.
Making it worse is that the Sabres goalies, which were pretty good last year, have not been this year. Robin Lehner has been terrible, and at 26 is running out of runway to claim he’s “The Real Thing.” Chad Johnson has been even worse. The last thing a bad team needs is bad goaltending, otherwise you get this current carcass smell.
Don’t have to overthink this one. The Sabres suck out loud, and theHawks need to get healthy on this part of the schedule. Rack up six of six before having to head to Winnipeg next week. Nothing less will do.
Game #29 Preview