PUCK DROP: 7pm
TV/RADIO: CSN, WGN Radio
GIMME GIMME GIMME THE HONKY TONK BLUES: On The Forecheck
The ol’ home and home. This used to be a staple of the NHL schedule when you had to play everyone in your division 12 times or whatever it was back in the day. They were usually on Saturday and Sunday nights, and the Sunday nights at the Old Stadium against either the North Stars or Leafs generally became something our Lord Jim Ross would describe as “Looks like a Saturday night on a payday weekend in Muskogee!” Why yes, I do have a requirement of how many times I use that phrase per season. And yes, I did go the long way round to get to it today. And I don’t care!
This probably won’t look like a Saturday night on payday weekend in Muskogee (DING!), mostly because neither of these teams is like that and the Predators have much bigger problems than that. The Preds are 3-5-2 in their last 10 games, and based on some quotes coming out of the dressing room on Tuesday night things are starting to boil a bit. But in that room, the coaches and players probably know what the problem is.
And the problems are they really only have one genuine top line forward in Filip Forsberg, and Pekka Rinne has sucked for the better part of six weeks now. Rinne’s SV% since November 1 is .891. His last four starts it’s .868. Unless you’re going to score four or five goals per game, that’s not going to get it done. And this outfit isn’t scoring four goals a game, as this is one where two d-men are their leading scorers. The Preds have the second most points from the blue line in the league, but they’re basically the only ones scoring. When Calle Jarnkrok Over The Line Sweet Jesus is manning your top center spot, you have trades to make. The David Poile panic trade is going to make for excellent television… unless he makes it with equally panicked Jarmo in Columbus. Teuvo-for-Seth Jones, who says no (all Predators fans Sam, actually)?
For the Hawks, the beat goes on, Macho Man. Same lineup, though Scott Darling will get the start with the Hawks spinning right home afterwards to host the Jets tomorrow night. Yes, the Jets did go home between their two games here, though one wonders why. The lineup looks like it will remain the same, with Marko Dano and Man Shitter in civilian clothes and the Hawks with this two top lines, two fourth lines look. Trevor Daley somehow joined the morning skate today even though he could barely stand on Sunday (hey remember that lawsuit thing?), but doesn’t look to be playing tonight which means more Rundblad adventures.
The Preds have been pretty good at home, and they were pretty dominant there last year as well. The home advantage doesn’t really allow them to exploit the Hawks’ biggest weakness which is the defense below the top pairing, because they don’t really have a top line. I’m guessing Peter Laviolette will do his best to get Jarnkrok and Forsberg out against TVR and Seabrook or Rundblad, and they had some success against the top line of the Hawks on Tuesday. He’ll try to avoid putting Grabby McGrab McGrab Ribeiro out against Toews, as Toews kicked him around at the United Center.
The Preds always play the same, which is fast fast fast. They had a lot of joy getting behind the Hawks’ defense on the stretch last time, and that won’t stop tonight. If it wasn’t for Crow’s efforts, the Preds probably would have gotten a point or more out of it. So the Hawks will have to be aware of a forward or two vaulting out of the zone at the first whiff of possession. And they’ll have to be aware what’s behind them when coming back too, because the Preds always have one d-man joining the play, and sometimes both. There is no hesitancy. As they did on Tuesday, the Hawks need to get a goal from the power play because the Nashville PK has been woeful lately, and they’ll have to force things when the fleeing Pred forwards strand their defense and turnovers become lethal to them. It happens to the Preds more than enough.
The schedule opens up after this. Starting tomorrow the Hawks won’t see what you’d call a good team until the game before Christmas in Dallas. Jets, Canucks, Avs, Oilers, Sharks, Canes… mmm, that’s good eatin’! So grabbing one more win ahead of that could see the Hawks really binge here.