RECORDS: Wild 17-15-3 Hawks 13-20-6
PUCK DROP: 7:30
TV: NBCSN Chicago
The mini-Christmas break is over, and the entire NHL is kicking out the cobwebs, stretching it out, processing a big yawn, and getting ready to get back to the grind. And thanks to the CBA and the players’ union strange request, tonight is filled with games where the road team flies in day of and never looks like it’s all working together. You’ve seen some of them get really fed on this day, but the Hawks haven’t gotten this day right much at all over the years. Last season they got an extra night before shitting it against the Canucks in Vancouver. The year before that that they were nowhere against the Jets, and the year before that they laid an egg against Carolina. So just because the Wild are in the air as we speak doesn’t guarantee much.
Let’s start with the Hawks. Collin Delia looks to be getting the start, which should be the case until there’s a back-to-back (weekend after next) or Corey Crawford comes back. Cam Ward showed his true Cam Ward colors on Sunday, or should I say is true technicolor yawn, basically gifting the Panthers a couple goals and ruining what was a decent enough start from the Hawks. While he played well in a couple wins before the break, he still has a terminal case of being Cam Ward and we all know exactly what he is. Delia at least comes shrouded in mystery and some hope, and right now that’s good enough for the Hawks.
Other lineup changes see John Hayden slot in for Chris Kunitz, who sadly wasn’t banished to a sawmill in the country during the break. Dylan Sikura is dropping to the fourth line, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I guess Brendan Perlini has played well enough for a promotion? Whatever. I don’t think it matters at this point.
To the Wild, who are only five points ahead of the Hawks but have played four games less. They have been tumbling down the standings like Martin Sheen off a roof for the past few weeks now. First it was Devan Dubnyk having a month-long sneeze in November, and while that’s corrected their scoring has gone completely agoraphobic and they can’t get anywhere near the opening between the posts. Since the middle of last month the Wild are shooting just 6.4%, fifth-worst in the league. Which betrays their metrics, as just like last year they create far more good chances than they let up even if the attempts are more or less evenly distributed. But that doesn’t really matter if you can’t bury them, and if your goalie goes through a streak where he can’t stop them.
Further dampening the Wild attack is that Matthew Dumba is basically done for the year, out three months with a pectoral problem that required surgery. He was one half of all their push from the blue line, with Jared Spurgeon the other (it’s not really what Ryan Suter does anymore). This has forced both Nate Prosser and Greg Pateryn into the lineup, which is a place you want to be in less than a bus station at 3AM. Without Dumba, you can expect the Wild’s metrics to go down.
Up front they’re juggling things again, with Charlie Coyle doing his regularly scheduled shift from wing to center where he can flatter to deceive there as well. Jordan Greenway has got himself punted to a wing where he can watch Mikko Koivu wheeze and belch as Father Time leaves another counting the lights. Zach Parise was hot there for a minute but has cooled off, and Mikael Granlund couldn’t hit an elephant from five feet at the moment. The lack of a true front-line scorer is once again biting the Wild in the ass, just as it has for the past…well, existence.
I guess in the Hawks’ mind, not yours or mine, if they’re going to push anything out of this season they have to start now. The schedule is pretty light from now until their bye in January, with only one back-to-back and three-in-four stretch with two of those at home. We’ll see what they make of it, which won’t be much.
Game #40 Preview Suite