RECORDS: Canes 17-14-7 Hawks 24-12-5
PUCK DROP: 7:30pm
WHAT AM I DOING IN THE BUS LEAGUES?: Canes Country
ADJUSTED TEAM CORSI %: Canes – 52.4 (5th) Hawks – 50.0 (15th)
ADJUSTED TEAM xGF%: Canes – 53.9 (5th) Hawks – 47.5 (24th)
POWER PLAY %: Canes – 18.8 (14th) Hawks – 18.3 (16th)
PENALTY KILL %: Canes – 88.5 (1st) Hawks – 74.8 (29th)
The rare home back-to-back. The Hawks will still have some advantage, as the Canes played last night in West East St. Louis, grabbing a victory over the clearly still hungover Blues. Because that Winter Classic victory is worth savoring. They’ll talk about it for decades. Anyway, the Hawks have to be a little better than they were last time these two teams tangoed.
The Canes have only played twice since that New Year’s Eve Eve dance in Carolina, losing to the Devils and beating the Blues. They can’t keep treading water like that, though they’ve somehow gotten to within four points of the last wild card spot, currently held by the Flyers. They still have to leap the Bolts and Leafs, but the Bolts might catch the Bruins anyway and the Leafs are the Leafs. Still, a four-point gap in Bettman’s Everyone-Gets-A-Trophy point system is massive, and the Canes are going to have to get hot sharpish.
Which is probably why you’ll see Cam Ward wheeled right back out there tonight, even though he played last night. Because no one needs to see Michael Leighton in an NHL game, and the Canes don’t really have games to concede right now.
The Hawks will see a slightly different version of Carolina tonight, as Justin Faulk returned to the lineup last night. Faulk might be the most underrated player in the entire league, and he only adds to the heavy possession ways of the Canes. There is nothing he can’t do, and he really gets up the ice and has a lethal shot and passing eye when he does. He was almost certainly Team USA’s biggest omission for the World Cup, and you’ll see why tonight if he’s full healthy.
Other than that, it’s the same lineup, plus the addition of Ty Rattie. He was claimed from the Blues on waivers earlier in the week. Rattie put up 31 goals in the AHL three years ago, which made Blues fans breathe heavily. But he never really matched that again, and he’s never really made it work in the NHL either. Still, there is a scoring touch here and maybe a change of scenery and being left to just be on a top six is what he needs. Time will tell, but you could do worse than being on the other side of Victor Rask than Jeff Skinner.
For the Hawks, Gustav Forsling and Spencer “Savior” Abbot have been sent to Rockford. Forsling simply needs time, and he’s been getting kicked around pretty hard in the NHL lately. Dominating at the AHL level would do him a world of good, and most d-men need that. That should see Campbell draw back in to play with… well, based on yesterday’s pairings it could be Hammer but the more likely idea would be TVR to leave Keith and Hammer to deal with whatever Q deems the biggest threat in white and red tonight.
The only other assignment for Q tonight is to keep Toews away from Jordan Staal, who has been inhaling opposing centers all season when he’s been in the lineup. Most likely Q would want Toews dealing with Teuvo as there is no Kruger to do it, and Our Special Boy and Aho are the most explosive line they have even if the numbers don’t show it.
The Wild pulled out a… well, wild one in San Jose last night 5-4 and remain one point behind the Hawks with four, count ’em four, games in hand. Boudreau teams just win divisions, huh? Again, I don’t know how much the Hawks think finishing first means, but home ice is a bigger advantage than it used to be and a first round match up with Calgary or LA or Nashville certainly sounds more pleasant than one with the Blues.
Should be a good one for all involved. Welcome home, TiVo Targaryn. We miss you.