Game Time: 6:00PM Central
TV/Radio – WGN Ch. 9, WGN-AM 720
Heaven’s Waiting Room: Litter Box Cats
It’s been nearly two years since the Panthers graced UC ice, and it was a snowy affair that time as well, with the game being postponed due to the Panthers team bus not being able to traverse the snowy Chicago streets in rush hour. And while Mother Nature has blessed us so far today with a picturesque yuletide dusting, it’s unlikely to cause such a snag this time. That game can also be recalled as the Hawks’ last win before going on a nine game losing streak, which hopefully does not repeat itself as well.
The visiting Panthers are coming off a 2-1 victory last night against new divisional rival Scum (that doesn’t sound right at all), with Jimmy Hayes scoring in the victory. Since the Cats’ 9 game losing streak of their own trade that not only resulted in Kevin Dineen getting whacked in favor of Pete Horachek, but also indirectly to the trade of Kris Versteeg here for Hayes and Dylan Olsen, Florida has gone 6-4-2, which included a couple of surprising wins against Vancouver and Colorado. But that still hasn’t improved their station much, as the Sabres are the only thing separating Uncle Dale’s crew from the East’s basement, which at least they have no real worry of falling that ridiculously deep into the hole. But even still, being this bad in this year’s east is truly an accomplishment.
And they’ve done it with a pretty well rounded effort, as well. They’re 28th in scoring (2.2 GF/60), 25th in goals against (3.1GA/60), totaling to a staggering -30 goal differential in in as many games. After last night, the team’s leading scorer is Scottie Upshall with 17 points, and leading goal scorer is Brad Boyes with 8. There are some nice young pieces for Dale to build around in Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, and Nick Bjugstad, all of whom are at least playing against men and learning the pro game, which suggests that the Panthers might have a future at some point.
On the blue line, the lone bright spot continues to be old friend Brian Campbell, who will undoubtedly be called a #5 defenseman by Eddie Olczyk this evening. Campbell still has two more years left on the contract that Uncle Dale gave him, but given his play and the demand for puck-moving defensemen, it seems silly for the Panthers not to eat a bit of Soup’s salary to get a ransom of prospects from a contender who could use his skills now. Eric Gudbrandson has had a rough go of it so far this season and in his career, but he has all the projectable skills and size to be their eventual #1, and is still well short of the 200 NHL game mark for defensemen that experts have long pointed to as the threshold for “getting it”.
In net, Tea Party Timmy has been serviceable in his return to the league with a .908 save percentage and allowing 2.81 against. But he played last night in Detroit, and like all geriatric crackpots, will need the day off today after staying way latter than just after the early bird special dinner. That leaves Scott Clemmensen in net after Jakob Markstrom was sent to the AHL for his Alberta-like numbers while supposedly being the future of the Florida crease. Clemmensen hasn’t been much better with an .879 save percentage and a 3.08 GAA.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, Andrew Shaw is returning to the lineup tonight, but with today’s skate being optional, there’s no real word on who’s going to be where. However, it’d be safe to assume that the Red Wedding line will remain unchanged. In other lineup news, Michael Kostka has been recalled from Rockford, so expect him to be skating at forward within the next week because GENIUS. Corey Crawford will get the start tonight in net.
There’s not a lot that needs to be said here, as this is a clear mismatch on paper. The Hawks are supposed to walk out of tonight with two points. And any gains made in any of the problem areas of late can be met with the glaring asterisk of “Well, it was the Panthers”. So just take care of business and get to Tuesday healthy. Let’s go Hawks.