FACEOFF: 6:30pm Central
TV/RADIO: NBCSN, WGN Radio
WINTER AND JULY 4th: Die By The Blade
The schedule has slowed down a bit here, with two days off before and after this game before it ramps up again at the end of next week. And it slows down in terms of opposition, or at least seemingly, as the Hawks travel to face the league-worst Sabres, who have now been stripped of most if not all their assets that weren’t tied down.
For the Hawks, Corey Crawford will get the start for reasons I can’t explain. This would seem a perfect time to get Antti Raanta a look, especially as it would have given Crow a full 6 days between starts before what is looking like a pretty massive occasion in Denver on Wednesday. Instead, we can look for Raanta against Nashville at home Friday or thereabouts.
Also for the Hawks, David Rundblad will make his debut in Red, giving Nick Leddy his 4th partner of the year. This one would seem to be the most mismatched, as Rundblad himself is a puck-mover and not all that physical, so someone is going to have to rope their game in to compensate for the other. Which would seem to defeat the purpose, but Q wants to see all of his toys I guess.
As for the rest of the lineup, it will look the same with the Axis of Death Toews and Saad staying together and Andrew Shaw merely having to breathe to get scoring chances. Perhaps against this rag-tag outfit and in front of friends and family can Patrick Kane find the touch again. He’s had a habit of scoring at HSBC/Marine Midland/It’s Just So Cold Here Arena.
While the natural conclusion to think this is one the Hawks could take with all the effort of trying to get your soda without sitting up, this Sabres team has beaten the Sharks, Bruins, and Lightning since the Olympic break. However, that was before pieces were sold for scrap, and their coming off a pretty lifeless shutout loss to Roberto Luongo in his Panthers’ bow. Or re-bow. Not sure.
The Hawks will see Jhonas Enroth, auditioning for a starting role either in Buffalo or somewhere after Ryan Miller’s trade. He’s actually been really good post-Sochi, including making 36 saves against the Sharks and 43 against the Lightning. He can steal a game in this form if you’re not paying attention. The Hawks can’t just throw shots at him whenever, so they’ll have to do the little things like create traffic and get to rebounds and all that.
As for the skaters? Uh…
Cody Hodgson is the leading scorer with 34 points. Tyler Ennis is like, lukewarm if not hot. Somewhere in between. And that’s about it. Although it is fun to say “Zemgus Girgensons.” Ted Nolan has actually been able to coax flashes of competence from Tyler Myers this season, but Myers can also fade into the Costco-sized rodeo clown that he’s been for the previous few seasons. And if you need him to Christian Ehrhoff can fuck things up royally, though he’s been a little better than he was earlier in the year.
Whether they like it or not the Hawks are in a scrap just to stay in second. The Avs lost their game in hand yesterday to the Blues, so the Hawks can push it to three points ahead of Colorado while still barely hanging on to St. Louis’s coattails (they’re going to have to take both of the games with the Blues at the UC in regulation to really have any hope). This is the kind of game that you can look past or not take seriously, but the Hawks have cost themselves that privilege with all those OT/SO losses. They need this one, but that doesn’t mean it should take anything resembling the A-game to get it.