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I Am The Smart, S-M-R-T: Hawks at Wild Preview/Pregame Thread/Obedience School

Hawk Wrestler v. Zakk-Wylde-by-Ivan-Chopik

FACEOFF: 7pm

TV/RADIO: CSN, NBCSN, TSN2 , WIND 560AM

FUNNY LOOKIN’ IN A GENERAL KINDA WAY: Hockey Wilderness

It would appear the over-arching theme of tonight’s game is our coach once again deciding to create a controversy and make himself (and no one else) feel like a genius. Ray Emery will get the start again, for reasons you’ll have to figure out yourself. I got nothin’.

It’s not a matter of seeing if Emery can go back-to-back, because he did this weekend. It’s not about riding a roll, because Emery was basically “meh” on Sunday. This isn’t about establishing a goalie platoon (which he shouldn’t be doing anyway), because if it was then Crawford would be rotated in.

This is simply about throwing open the door for Emery to take the #1 job. We know that road. We know exactly where it ends. This is not to say that Crawford should automatically be given the start in Game 1 in three weeks or so. But he should be given every chance to find his game to do so.

Hopefully, Q understands that if he’s really going to rotate goalies in the playoffs, or he’s seriously going to start Emery and watch him get exposed when the volume gets turned up and the Hawks don’t end up where they should, he’ll be fired before he gets to the podium for his postgame presser. I hope he understands that.

The other storyline for the Hawks tonight is the return of Patrick Sharp. Considering the Earth being thrown off it axis after only one period of Kane-Toews-Saad, I think we’d all like to see that continued. That would leave Sharp to play with Kruger and Hossa — Bolland didn’t make the trip but maybe in the end that shouldn’t matter. There isn’t a large sample size, but Sharp and Hossa have had success before together, and being without Kane might eradicate Sharp’s tendencies to turn satellite-ish on the outside.

For the rest of it, the lineup should remain the same, with Carcillo taking a seat to make way for Sharp. I’m basing that on Bollig-Frolik-Shaw having some decent shifts on Sunday.

To Minnehaha. The Wild are still in a race to claim the Northwest with the Canucks. They’re four points ahead but have played a game less. It may just be a debate over who starts the series between the two at home. At the moment they are the #3 and #6 seeds.

At the deadline, the Wild got Jason Pominville, which seems just about the perfect pick up for them. Dany Heatley didn’t fit in with Parise and Koivu, and though rookie Charlie Coyle made a fist of it, he didn’t make it work either. Though Pominville gets a little shoosty, that’s a fit with the vision of both Koivu and Parise.

It slots Heatley down too, and suddenly the Wild are a little deeper than you thought. Matt Cullen is having a wonderful season, and he’s been slotted back to the #2 center now that Mikael Granlund has been returned to Houston. It’s a pretty decent top six.

On the back end, Ryan Suter found the form the Wild started the lockout over, and is a serious candidate for the Norris (though that’s more a result of writers doing no more research than looking at the highest-scoring d-men. Subban is having a far better season). He’s partnered with slick rookie Jonas Brodin, who looks to be the truth. They’ll obviously draw the Toews assignment.

Behind them? You wonder. Tom Gilbert is a poor man’s Dan Boyle, and Boyle isn’t exactly a penthouse resident. Jared Spurgeon is four feet tall. Justin Falk? Brett Clark? Nate Prosser? Yeah, your heart doesn’t flutter.

Niklas Backstrom had a blip against the Blues and Sharks, but rebounded with a shutout of the Jackets. He’ll get the start tonight, and is putting up his customary solid but not starring season. It always feels like Backstrom doesn’t move all that well, and has had his issues with the Hawks in the past, but has also had outings where he’s been very good against them.

The last time these two met, the Hawks simply blew the doors off the Wild in the first two periods, and Brandon Saad and Bryan Bickell went off. And of course, they then took the 3rd period off and let the Wild back into it.

You get the sense this has an excellent chance of being a clunker. The Hawks just finished three games in four days. The division is over, and the conference is at least in their own hands if not over. The Wild have so much more to play for at the moment. The return of Sharp might help with that, and the Hawks have been making all the right noises about tuning up the car for the playoffs. We’ll learn something about that tonight.

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