Game Time: 9:00 PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, NHLN (US), WIND-AM 560
The House That Heaven Built: Nucks Misconduct
It seems odd that a game this late in the season between these two foes would have so little riding on it, but yet that’s the case tonight as the Hawks visit Riot City to kick off the final week of the regular season. And because there isn’t much at stake, keeping all the requisite bile associated with the Orca and their trash flinging constituency should at least be attempted to be compartmentalized for at least one evening. But that’s easier said than done.
Though they were given a mild scare in the middle part of this shortened season, the Canucks are once again in a position to yet again win the garbage fire that is the Northwest Division, and can do so by gaining a single solitary point tonight. In turn, the Ducks need only a point themselves to lock into the #2 seed, so for all intents and purposes, the Canucks are solidified as the #3 in the Western Conference. Their goal at present is to get as healthy as possible before the games start to matter this time next week.
The B.C. boys have been beset by injuries all season, and tonight is no exception, with resident heyena Kevin Bieksa and Keith Ballard both sitting out tonight’s game. This leaves the Canucks with a third defensive pairing of Cam Barker and Andrew “Fuck You” Alberts which should have whatever Hawk forwards that are dressing limbering up to use their speed to the outside, as well making Viktor Stalberg positively turgid. This will also leave Alex Edler and his elbows paired with rookie Frank Corrado making his NHL debut tonight.
Things are just as goofy looking up front, at least behind the usual top unit Tomax, Xamot, and Bitey McHairpully. What’s left of Ryan Kesler has been moved to wing opposite Chris Higgins, with would-be Hawk savior Derek Roy in the middle. While Kesler can still take draws on his strong side and win them more frequently than Roy can, putting him at wing would seem to negate a lot of what made Kesler such a monumental ass carbuncle to play against, keeping him on the outside rather than right in the the thick of things at center. Though as the injuries have started to pile up, they’ve taken their own collective toll on his effectiveness.
After a rough start to the season, Corey Schneider seems to have claimed the Canucks cage for his own, with very solid numbers of a 2.15 GAA and .926 save percentage, including 5 shutouts. As usual, Schneider will stop most everything he sees cleanly, but can be exploited if he’s forced to play the puck, so getting pucks into the trapezoid behind the Canucks’ D will be key if for some reason the Hawk forwards can’t get wide on them.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, even though Patrick Sharp and Drew LeBlanc made the trip out west with the team, it appears that the lines will be identical to those on Saturday, with Jamal Mayers mercifully taking both Bollig and Gorilla Salad out of the equation. This makes sense, as even though the game is of little importance in the grand scheme of things, there’s always a chance for it to get testy, and there’s no need of putting Sharp’s handsome shoulder at unnecessary risk.
It also appears that Corey Crawford will get the nod tonight, though whether that’s a function of Ray Emery’s health or Joel Quenneville finally giving Crow some rope to shake off what have been some icky looking goals is anyone’s guess. Razor made the trip, so it seems like it’s a case of the latter, but with the way Q has always handled goalies leaves it open to speculation. Either way, though Crawford’s stat line has been by and large unaffected by his last few outings, there have been some icky pucks that have ended up behind him. Crawford has played strong in Vancouver throughout his career, and he’ll have an opportunity to get a a firmer grip on things if he can show some improvement tonight.
By the time this game starts tonight, the Hawks could be in a position to sew up home ice through June. Should the Penguins lose to the Sens in regulation, merely getting this game to overtime (as the previous two games between these teams have gone) will seal it up. A Pens loss in OT or the shootout would require a Hawks win in whatever way they can manage one. And obviously a Penguins win keeps the discussion open for at least another game night, though the odds are still in the Hawks’ favor. And the quicker this is crossed off the list, the quicker key players can start avoiding injuries in meaningless games. Let’s go Hawks.