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Game #43 – Wild vs. Hawks Preview , Toenail Trimming – Labour Issues In The Toy Department

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Game Time: 7:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBCSN National, WGN-AM 720
Strictly Leakage: Hockey Wilderness

After going above and beyond the call of duty in dispatching with the dreadful Senators last night in Kanata, the Hawks turn right back around for a RIVALRY NIGHT game against the divisional opponent Minnesota Wild, who are currently tied with the Hawks, but have played more games and have fewer regulation wins. What a time to be barely alive.

The Wild are also coming off playing last night (nice scheduling work NHL and NBC), having lost to the Flames in overtime on home ice after spotting them a 2-0 lead. Alex Stalock got the start last night, so it’ll be Devan Dubnyk’s net tonight on West Madison. Doober has taken a bit of a step back this year, more than likely due to being ridden like a rented mule since his arrival in Minnesota, but also under the increased workload they’ve given him as the league’s worst possession team. Dubnyk has dipped from a .923 overall last year to a .916 currently, and .929 at evens to .923. But given the amount of shots the Wild concede, that’s caused his GAA to balloon up from 2.25 to 2.72, facing an average of 30.7 shots against per start. The book on him remains the same, given his height he needs to get moving laterally to open up his five hole, and one can occasionally be buzzed by his ear because he does tend to drop down quickly.

In front of him the Wild blue line is still led by Ryan Suter, who is still Ryan Suter. None of his game has ever been particularly flashy, but he’ll play a zillion minutes against the other team’s top threats on a nightly basis, and basically plays them to an exact draw at this point. With Jared Spurgeon back from injury, he’ll get to freelance while Suter plays centerfield when they’re in the offensive zone, which again, is basically exactly half the time with about 500+ minutes played together at evens. Spurgeon creates great chances for himself and his teammates though, and they’ve been capitalizing on them since his return from injury. That return has pushed Matt Dumba down to the second pairing with Jonas Brodin where they don’t fare quite as well 5v5, but Dumba is still a weapon on the advantage. Completing the third pairing with another free-safety/freelancer combo is Mike Reilly and and Nate Prosser, who is also the resident tomato can, and are throwing up a ghastly 40 share of attempts at evens as a pairing.

Up front the Wild still continue to ask more of Eric Staal that should be asked of him at 33 and approaching 1100 games played in the league, but here he is as their de facto #1 center and leading scorer. Zach Parise returned from injury to start 2018, but now Nino Neiderreiter is out, so look for Parise to be on Staal’s left at least to start. There was no morning skate today because of it being a back-to-back, so there’s really no telling what the lines will look like, other than the second line of Granlund, Zucker, and Mikko Koivu sticking together. However without the benefit of last change or the benefit of having a coach who hasn’t overdosed on lemon meringue pies from Baker’s Square, it might be tougher tonight to get Koivu out against Toews to irritate him as he usually does. The lineup shuffle has also once again forced Charlie Coyle back into the center role he’s never really seized, and having Chris Stewart as one of his wingers probably isn’t going to help expedite that process this go around. And for as much as this outlet has always adored Matt Cullen, he’s getting absolutely skulled as the Wild’s 4th line center. It really takes a lot in the modern NHL to sport a share of attempts at evens less than one’s age, but Cullen is managing it at 39.4% and age 41.

As for the Men of Four Feathers, while last night was fun and cathartic, it was absolutely what they were supposed to do to that lot up in Canada’s most nondescript city, which is fittingly also its capital. There’s not a lot to be learned from games like that when the Senators are so obviously sellers that they’ve already asked the defenseman of a generation for his trade list. The far more important task is tonight against a divisional opponent and at home, where business should be taken care of. The big story to come out of last night was obviously the healthy scratching of our dearly beloved Bottomless Pete. Again, with no morning skate today, it’s tough to say if he’ll draw back in tonight even if it was intended to be a one-game message-sending benching given the results of last night. Having Connor Murphy and Michal Kempny together is something that has long been championed around here, and the results last night played out quite nicely with only 8 attempts against and 21 for in 13:36 of 5v5 time together. But again, it was the Senators after all.

Given the busy schedule before the bye week, it’s likely that Jeff Glass will get the net again tonight, and it is now federal law that we have to say that he is in fact a GREAT STORY. Glass’ rebound control issues could be an issue with Bruce Boudreau’s complete lack of offensive structure, as there’s always the potential he could be kicking the puck directly to the tape of the opposition considering that they don’t even know where they’re supposed to be. It could very well end up that another offensive outburst nearly to the caliber of last night’s is required of the Hawks if those types of bounces don’t fall their way tonight.

The Wild give up 61.33 attempts on net for ever 60 minutes they play on the road, and the Hawks take 66.16 for every 60 of 5v5 at home, so there should be plenty of opportunities for them to pelt Dubnyk at evens tonight. The hope has to be that Glass Jeff can give them just enough for it to make a difference to gain two points that are pretty damn necessary at this point. Let’s go Hawks.

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