Game Time: 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Paisley Park: Hockey Wilderness
After a brief and suprisingly victorious jaunt to Manitoba on Thursday, the Hawks return home tonight having now had a couple days worth of rest, and will face of against the Wild, with whom they are tied, who played last night, and are beat the hell up by injuries.
Entering tonight, the Wild are tied with the Hawks with 37 points in the Central division, though technically behind them due to the regulation/OT win tiebreaker, in case anyone had any question as to whether games past 60 minutes are a joke. They lost at home yesterday afternoon to the Oilers, and now they’ll be turning right around for a road game this evening. Devan Dubnyk was injured last Friday against the Ducks, and it’s been Alex Stalock who will likely get his 5th straight start tonight, and has filled in admirably in Dubnyk’s place, losing only yesterday’s tilt since getting the crease. Stalock has been a career backup, albeit a fairly decent one by that standard, with a career .911 overall and .919 at evens, however he’s far exceeding those marks now at .915 and .924. But the thing about career backups is that given enough exposure, water will always find its own level, and taking starts on back to back days with travel involved is pushing it. But on the other hand the Hawks have had a habit of making backup goalies look like Gump Fucking Worsley this season, so things could go either way.
In front of Stalock, Jared Spurgeon should be returning from a visit to sick bay due to a groin issue (and who doesn’t have groin issues these days?), though given how Matt Dumba has looked next to Ryan Suter, particularly in potting both of the Wild’s goals yesterday, it’s unlikely that Spurgeon will get his usual post back, and figures to slot next to Jonas Brodin in another free-safety/freelancer pairing. It’s the same idea in principle for the third pairing as well with Mike Reilly joining the rush, but he’ll be partnered with Nate Prosser, who is in the league in spite of (or possibly because of) being as dumb as a fucking bag of rocks.
Up front, Eric Staal continues to have a late career renaissance of sorts in Minny with 28 points to lead them so far, however he’s likely miscast still as a top center at age 33 and well over 1000 games into his career. Christ, reading that is a great way to feel old. Anyway, In Zach Parise’s absence, Jason Zucker has shown the rest of the league what everyone here already knew about his ability to score irritating goals utilizing his incredible speed on the wing, and already has 14 through 32 games, on pace to shatter his previous career mark of 22. It’s Minnesota’s current incarnation of a second line however that looks to pose the most threat, with Nino and Granlund flanking Mikko Koivu, who always irritates the shit out of Jonathan Toews. There’s some speed, creativity, and snarl between the three of them, and it’s no surprise that in limited time together so far, they’ve got a better than 60% share of the attempts. Matt Cullen anchors the 3rd line at 41, and while he’s had one hell of a career and has been productive even the last couple of years, the tank might finally be hitting E for him. Chris Stewart is still on this team and because no one here can still figure out what the fuck he does that’s actually useful he is assuredly scoring two goals tonight.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, they face another somewhat-critical divisional opponent tonight in the hopes of getting things back on track in the standings. The first period Thursday night in The Peg was about as solid a single frame as they’ve put together since opening night. They took their collective foot off the gas a little bit in the back half of the game which meant Corey Crawford had to do Corey Crawford things to keep the Jets at a comfortable distance, however. Crawford once again gets his crease tonight, and with no back to backs until the second week of January, doesn’t figure to lose it any time soon.
Jan Rutta and Cody Franson remain out, so that means Michal Kempny will remain out of jail on work release after throwing a 60 share mostly looking at Blake Wheeler on Thursday night on the road. Not bad for sitting for a few weeks. The lineup elsewhere figures to remain the same, with the Toews line continuing to sport DeBrincat and Saad on their off wings like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ intended. Richard Panik will remain out for no damn good reason other than the Hawks have won without him.
There are no must-win games in December, but the points still count the same as the ones in March. With that being said, the Hawks will be facing a banged up team that played yesterday and had to travel while they’ve had the advantage of being home for two days. Good teams capitalize on opportunities like this, and it’s time the men in red started acting like one. Let’s go Hawks.
Game #33 Preview