Game Time: 7:00PM Central
TV/Radio: NBCSN, TSN, CSN, WGN-AM 720
Holding On: Defending Big D
Fresh off from showing that skill is an ultimate trump card, the Hawks head back up 55 to face the Stars who have been patiently waiting for them here in Chicago. This is a Stars team that’s quite different from the one we saw a month ago as the Hawks made sure DLR was up and ready early on as they cruised to an 8-1 victory. Things hadn’t been going the Stars way for most of the year and it seemed as if their front office realized it. So gone are Michael Ryder, Brenden Morrow and of course Jaromir Jagr. In came a few pieces and parts that could help the Stars in the future.
Yet somehow the Stars have found their way back into the playoff picture this year. They knocked off five in a row, taking down San Jose twice, Nashville, LA, and Anaheim. They’re still sitting two points out of the playoffs though and the schedule doesn’t get much easier for them. After leaving Chicago, they’ll have to take on the Canucks, Blues, Kings, Sharks, Blue Jackets and Wings to close out the season. All 3 of those Central Division opponents are fighting for those final spots so nothing will come easy for the Stars. Even losing two points here tonight could spell doom. I’ve never really liked the Stars.. so let’s hope that happens.
Perhaps the biggest concern for the Stars at the moment is the health of starting goalie Kari Lehtonen. Having already missed time with an injury earlier this year, Lehtonen returned to play 19 games in a row before leaving last Wednesday’s game in the first with a groin injury. That left the Stars to put their hopes for the rest of the season on Richard Bachman’s shoulders and he’s done pretty well so far. Came in off the bench to stop 22 shots on Wednesday and took home a W in both games of the Stars back-to-back schedule this weekend. Lehtonen’s injury is only listed as “mild” and he could return tonight.. which would be perfect since he usually stonewalls the Hawks at least once a year.
For the Blackhawks – it’s still up in the air as to who Q will give the nod to start in the net. It is the second game of a back-to-back for the Hawks, but we saw last week that doesn’t really matter as Razor got both starts against the Preds. Crawford is also coming off a shutout, which generally means another start in Q’s brain. If his recent trend of playing the hot hand continues, it’s Crow. I’m sure you’ll all fill us in whenever that news breaks.
Still no word on the status of Patrick Sharp either as he obviously didn’t make the trip to St. Louis yesterday and is listed as doubtful for today. With the West all but out of reach for Anaheim, I would be surprised to see Sharp skate until they feel he’s fully ready to go. If there’s still lingering issues with his shoulder – save him until it’s really needed. I wouldn’t be shocked to see more time off for most of the top line players.. or at least drastically reduced minutes.
If Sharp is still out, then we’re likely to see Kruger on the second line with Bolland and Kaner. Neither Kruger nor Bolland looked like anything special in the game yesterday though Patrick Kane will likely drag them into respectability somehow. Odd to think of Kane as the respectable one, isn’t it?
Let’s Go Hawks