Game Time: 3:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network, WGN-AM 720
Harboring A Fugitive: JFTC
After getting their dicks thoroughly knocked in the dirt in the Bay Area on Thursday night, the Hawks make their way south to face the Kings on Figueroa, bringing this fetid garbage season one game closer to mercifully ending.
Since the Hawks last saw the Kings on West Madison a week and a half ago, they’ve gone 3-2, winning in Winnipeg and sweeping a home-and-home with Vegas, while managing to lose to Dallas and Edmonton of all teams. And while the team stood pat on the actual trade deadline after acquiring Dion Phaneuf for some odd reason earlier in February and Tobias Reider a week before the deadline, they arguably got as big an acquisition as they could have hoped for with the return of Jeff Carter from a long term injury, where he had not played since October. All Carter has done in his last three games is score in each of them while putting up a total of 17 shots on goal, including 9 on Monday in the first tilt against Vegas. Carter’s presence slots him in as the #2 center behind the resurgent Anze Kopitar, and finally moves the rest of the forward depth down where it should be. Since returning, Carter has been with his familiar linemates Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, and Toffoli has four points himself in the four games they’ve been reunited. Reider has found himself on the third line centered by Adrian Kempe and opposite Nate Thompson since arriving from Glendale. And Reider slots Kyle Clifford and Torry Mitchell down to the fourth line where they belong.
On the Kings’ blue line, things remain the same, with accused rapist Drew Doughty still playing in every situation with Derek “Yes, My Son Is Also Named” Forbort, Phaneuf playing centerfield for Alec Martinez on the second pairing, and future Norris winner Jake Muzzin anchoring the third pairing with Christian Folin. This will all be done in front of Jonathan Quick, who remains as Jonathan Quick as he’s ever been this season.
As for the Men Of Four Feathers, Quenneville is loading up with the one-time Nuclear Option of Saad, Toews, and Garbage Dick as his top line in an obvious “Well, fuck it” move. The cascading changes further down the forward depth chart result in Wide Dick Artie centering Jurco and Duclair, Schmaltz between DeBrincat and Our Cousin Vinny, and Kampf centering newcomer Matthew Highmore and whatever remains of Patrick Sharp. This configuration does no favors to Anthony Duclair, one of the few forwards who looked to have some spring in his step on Thursday, as it saddles him with a center who can’t win a draw and can’t move, and a linemate whose hands are the hockey equivalent skillset of Jarron Gilbert jumping out of a pool. The third line will be fast and all over the place, so maybe that will be fun, but it probably won’t be.
On defense however, it appears that our wish will finally be granted and our Large Irish Stepson will finally get a look being paired with Duncan Keith, something that this space has called for since about October. This afternoon will be a good barometer of what he can handle, because with Carter back and with fresh legs, there’s no hiding from the Kings’ top six without last change. Erik Gustafsson’s effort in San Jose somehow managed to be not enough to land him in the pressbox and instead is now paired with Jordan “Cash, Money” Oesterle where hilarity is bound to ensue. Once again Anton Forsberg looks like the best bad idea the Hawks have in net, so after J-F Berube allowed six (most of which he was hung completely out to dry on), Forsberg is likely to get the cage.
Afternoon hockey blows, and this Blackhawks team blows even harder, so aside from paying attention to the Keith-Murphy pairing, all this game serves is to get this season one day closer to being over, particularly with a coach who apparently has to be beaten over the head to try to stop chasing points with his lineup decisions (Hi Patrick Sharp) even with this campaign long over. Feel free to flip back and forth between this and the SVU marathon that’s assuredly going to be running on either ION Television or USA.
Game #65 Preview