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Game #26 – Hawks vs. Stars Preview

 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 12-9-4   Stars 14-10-1

PUCK DROP: 8pm

TV: NBCS CHICAGO

WE GOIN’ HONKY TONKIN’: Defending Big D

The back half of a traditional, divisional home-and-home comes tonight in North Texas, with the Hawks looking to greatly improve on what was a pretty piss poor effort on Thursday. We knew fatigue would come into play somewhere in this hellacious five-in-seven stretch, and at least for the first two periods the Hawks looked leggy. They almost pulled it back in the 3rd, which shows you the flaws in this Dallas team, but their power play problems clipped their hopes.

Obviously, not much can change with these teams in just two days… unless it’s the Hawks and an injury to Corey Crawford puts their whole season teetering on the edge of the Great Abyss. Make no mistake, if Crow were to miss two to three weeks–as he very well might–and the Hawks have a complete balls-up during that, they could be utterly fucked without any of the customary fun before you’re singing Auld Lang Syne. Anton Forsberg has been better than his numbers suggest–that belch-with-barf in Denver skews things–but the Hawks in no way wanted to depend on him full-time this early in the season. Or at all. And J.F. Berube has a terminal case of being J.F. Berube. With his 21 games in the NHL and middling AHL numbers, the Hawks won’t want to break that glass unless it’s a total emergency. Yes, you should be uneasy.

The Stars also play tomorrow night in Denver, so there’s a chance that the Hawks could get a look at Kari Lehtonen tonight which would help the cause, or at least would be likely to. There look to be a couple lineup changes for the Stars as well. Curtis McKenzie was called up to write a sermon that no one will hear as Antoine Roussel has apparently picked up something, and I’m just going to go ahead and say some combo of syphilis and plague because I want to. Martin Hanzal will still miss out, and Julius HONKA! HONKA! won’t get in the lineup so they can keep trained ox Jamie Oleksiak in.

What’s a little worrisome is that with the matchup-advantage at home, the Hawks were still unable to keep Tyler Seguin’s line under control at all. So Hitch can be confident of throwing them out against Toews again and getting chances, or throwing them at the bottom six and having battle station alarms going off in the Hawks zone all night. Expect to see the Seguin line out against Forsling and Rutta at every chance, and don’t expect Q to chase matchups too much because he just doesn’t do it much in the regular season.

Even with Faksa’s and Janmark’s scratching the sheet on Thursday, with Spezza’s wrong-chalice-like decay and Hanzal’s injury, this is still pretty much a one-line team. The Hawks did keep them from scoring at least on Thursday… and lost anyway. So… not encouraging.

With Forsberg in net the Hawks might be tempted to play it a little safer on the road, keeping the third forward as high as possible and dropping their d-men back at the first hint of trouble. Hitch won’t take the foot off the gas too much at home and with the Hawks on the their back up ‘tender. He also won’t stand for the Stars racking up seven penalties again.

Not to keep beating a dead horse–and I don’t know why you keep bringing me down–but given how jammed up things are in the West wildcard picture and given how the strata in the Central have separated, the Hawks can’t afford to drop too many points to teams that are joining them in this mud-covered rabble. They got a point against the Stars last out but really can’t give them more than the two they already did. It’ll be hard to lose touch, but it’ll also be even harder to make up ground. Getting to overtime is something of a loss. Need a regulation win here.

 

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