RECORDS: Hawks 18-24-9 Sabres 25-19-6
PUCK DROP: 6pm
TV: NBCSN Chicago
WEARING THE KELSO HELMET: Die By The Blade
The Hawks escape the Polar Vortex, and their bye-week, only to arrive in the constant vortex of misery and ice that is Buffalo, New York. As Harry T. Stone once said, “Why don’t you just sleep in your refrigerator?” They’ll find there a Sabres team still dog-paddling furiously to find the refuge of a playoff spot, but seemingly can’t get any closer after their one hot-streak of the season.
The Sabres seem to suffer from what’s been going around with a lot of teams on either side of the periphery of the playoff cutoff, and that’s they’re one line and then a bunch of understudies and scenery. You’ve seen this in Dallas, Colorado, Vancouver to an extent, Edmonton for like four minutes, Boston, and the like.
Jeff Skinner, Jack Eichel, and Sam Reinhart (the one good Reinhart) form a deadly unit. Skinner is on his way to his first 40-goal season, Eichel is averaging a point-per-game for the first time. They’ve kept the Sabres in most games every night, and they had one streak where they found a way to win every game they were in. Which is the only reason they have any hope of a playoff spot now. Throw in competent goaltending in spots from either Carter Hutton or Linus Ullmark, and you get a team that’s slightly above an also-ran but not nearly ready for primetime either.
Because there’s isn’t anything behind that line. Casey Mittelstadt will be a fine player one day, but is learning the ropes. Kyle Okposo died of dysentery. Jason Pominville is three days older than water. Evan Rodrigues helps prove the theory that if you wore a letter for your college team, you suck. There’s just no secondary scoring here.
Perhaps one day Rasmus Dahlin will chip in big-time with that, but as promising as he is asking him to do it at 18 from the blue line is a bit much. Rasmus The Lesser (Ristolainen) has always been a fraud and maybe now they’re even realizing it in Buffalo. The rest of the defense is basically plugs like Zach Bogosian or Marco Scandella, or players who just never got there like Nathan Beaulieu and Jake McCabe. Again, there’s a top tier base here in Dahlin, the Sabres just need to fill in the rest behind. Or wait until their other prospects do so. It’s a project.
For the Hawks, they’ll start the post All-Star break “push” with a weird road-trip that goes east-to-west. with tomorrow night in Minnehaha to face the equally confounding Wild before decamping for Edmonton to face the always hilarious Oilers. Maybe the schedule makers just wanted the Hawks to see the three places consistently colder than Chicago for perspective.
Cam Ward will get the start, with Collin Delia getting the nod for what is the more “important”divisional game in the Hawks’ heads only. In theory, you might have to haul down the Wild to get into the playoffs, so if the Hawks do rip off 15 in a row the two points tomorrow will matter more. Or something. I just work here, ok?
As for other lineup changes, I would imagine that Carl Dahlstrom comes in for the bewilderingly-demoted Jokiharju, though Forsling was activated and could be chosen to waste all of our time again. Connor Murphy will probably stare quizzically at Slater Koekkoek all night, while the revival act of Marlboro 72 continues to not sell out theaters nationwide. Boy, this is fun. Whatever two of Perlini, Kunitz, and Hayden floats your boat will play. No, it does not matter.
The Hawks are back. And there was must rejoicing.
Game #52 Preview Suite