FACEOFF: 6pm Central
TV/RADIO: CSN, WGN 720am
MUD WITH THE CAPTAIN: Canes Country
The Hawks continue their tour through the Eastern Conference (with only brief stops to play the Blues, apparently), but this time take it on the road and head down to Tobacco Road where the residents are killing time before Coach K yells at children.
It’s been an uneven start for the Caniacs, as they’ve filled out the dance card equally at 2-2-2. Their most recent effort saw them get fairly well clocked at home by the Coyotes, which is not something they hand out merit badges for.
They’re led by Bieber-fodder Jeff Skinner, who has 7 points in six games. The other Tyler Ennis — Nathan Gerbe — has also gotten off to a hot start with three goals and two points. However, they haven’t been able to find either Staal with blood hounds and drones. Eric is -5 and Jordan has one assist before he gets hurt again. Old friend Tuomo Ruutu just returned from missing the preseason. Jiri Tlusty is kind of a secret weapon, and finds himself on the top line with Staal and Alex Semin’s incredible release and wavering amount of give-a-shit.
As for the Carolina blue line, it’s kind of Justin Faulk and no one else. I feel like Faulk is headed for a Doughty-like breakout in Sochi if he makes the US team, which he should. Tim Gleason is an honest soldier, and rookie Ryan Murphy has some promise. But Ron Hainsey can’t make the lineup consistently (for some reason) and Andrej Sekera and Mike Komisarek have the turning radius of an Italian cruise ship.
And some of that comes even more undone when you get past them and get to the net to find Cam Ward. He had a couple decent seasons a little while ago, but was never elite which he’s been paid like. He was bad last year before he got hurt (again) and he hasn’t gotten off to a great start this year either. Backup Anton Khudobin could have usurped the job, but he got hurt against Phoenix and could be out a bit.
For the Hawks, it sounds like Handzus’s return to the lineup after being locked in a room with an oxygen tank for the Sabres means Brandon Pirri will be scratched, which doesn’t make a lot of sense but I’m just not going to bitch about it right now. Michal Rozsival returns as well after sharing that oxygen tank.
There isn’t an opponent I have less connection with than the Canes. I mostly remember the Hawks not playing all that well there, but that’s based on hazy memory. This should be a game the Hawks win and pretty easily, but there are enough weapons here through Semin, Tlusty, and Skinner that if you take the night off they can punish you. The Canes play pretty openly, as they get and surrender over 30 shots per game so far. This is not a team that can survive a track meet with the Hawks, but if Keith and Seabrook continue to go geocaching all over the ice, Skinner and others could really scorch the Hawks in the open ice. And eventually Eric Staal is going to find it. You wouldn’t want it to be tonight.
So don’t let them. Go Hawks.