Game Time: 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio: NBCSN, NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
David Poile Is A Scumbag: On The Forecheck
If the Hawks record and stagnant roster weren’t a self evident indication of how rudderless and sclerotic this Organ-I-Zation has been since its most recent playoff ouster at the hands of tonight’s vistors, the Nashville Predators, then the fact that the Preds fired Peter Laviolette earlier this week while remaining ahead of the Hawks in the standings should drive the point home. But it remains unchanged that the Hawks are still outwardly holding the product on-ice to a playoff standard, and tonight poses yet another opportunity to gain points on a team they are currently (on paper) battling for a playoff spot, an opportunity which will surely end up being pissed away in creative fashion as so many others have the past two seasons.
First, to the visiting Predators, who did new Coach John Hynes no favors by giving him a game against the Bruins to begin his tenure with. If the Jack Adams trophy for best coach has become a de facto award for the team with the most odds-defying PDO for a given season, then the other side of that coin is that coaches are routinely fired for shit goaltending, which the Preds got plenty of this year under Lavvy, and kept the trend going by allowing six goals to the Bruins on Tuesday. Both Ol’ Shit Hip Pekka Rinne and kind-of heir-apparent are sporting sub .900 overall save percentages, though Rinne is at least a respectable .920 at evens and is just getting ventilated on the PK with a .755 when short a man. It will be Rinne’s net tonight.
In front of Rinne, despite the age-old tradition in the south of blaming the black guy when things go sideways, the Preds’ blue line hasn’t been the same this year in PK Subban’s absence, and they’re now currently battling injuries. Ryan Ellis was on the receiving end of Corey Perry’s elbow in the Winter Classic, and that’s resulted in Jarred Tinordi being reanimated from his years-long AHL stasis to finally make it back to the show. Dante Fabbro also missed the Bruins game, though he is only day to day, and could conceivably be back in the lineup tonight, though there have not been any reports from the Preds’ skate at press time. That leaves Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm to do all the heavy lifting, because whatever’s left of Dan Hamhuis (Ekholm’s primary partner vs. Boston) certainly isn’t cutting it. Josi and Yannick Weber also got their skulls caved in having to face the Bruins top line, though they’ll do that to plenty of people. This is a unit that’s banged up and not as mobile as it once was, and now the goaltending isn’t bailing them out, particularly on the kill. It can be attacked, and it’s far better to have them play in their own end, as Josi currently leads the team in scoring with 45 points, with 16 of them coming on the advantage.
Up front Hynes wasted no time in reuniting Forsberg, Treat Boy, and Viktor Arvidsson, and the line is always a threat when engaged, though the scoring numbers aren’t what they have been in the past for any of the three of them, though they haven’t played much together this year, only about 93 minutes at evens. They’ve gotten heavily sheltered zone starts in that time, starting 72% in the offensive zone, but only carrying a 53% share of attempts, which means they’re getting the ice flipped on them more than they should against top competition. The second line of Jarnkrok, Duchene, and Granlund should benefit from being even more sheltered in their deployment, but they haven’t hit paydirt much as a threesome. Nick Bonino gets the dungeon shifts and is currently flanked by Craig Smith and Mini Hockey Tebow Rocco Grimaldi, though Bonino and Smith on the same line together in a checking role is certainly enough given the way they have both brutalized the Hawks recently. Tremendous David Poile Bargain Signing Kyle Turris is centering the fourth line for a cool $6 mildo per for another four years, which is at least how long linemate and fucking criminal Austin Watson should be in jail for.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, they’ll get Drake Caggiula back tonight after a long stint in the dark room, but that doesn’t make up for Dylan Strome’s absence after buckling weirdly on his right ankle on Tuesday. He’s been labeled as day-to-day which is better than the alternative, for sure, but there still hasn’t been enough shown from Kirby Dach yet to feel like Strome won’t be missed while he’s out. Dylan Sikura is also taking a seat in favor of Matthew Highmore for reasons clear only to this brilliant coaching staff. With the skate today only being optional, the lines could realistically look like anything come game time, which should imbue everyone with a tremendous sense of hope and optimism. Speaking of which, Slater Koekkoek will take Dennis Gilbert’s spot on defense, and if the goal with watching Dennis Gilbert far longer than anyone outside of Rockford should was to make the masses yearn for Slater Koekkoek, well then congratulations, mission accomplished. Corey Crawford will get his third straight start, though Robin Lehner appears to have gotten over his case of “pouty piss pants” after giving up 6 to the Canucks and is available as the backup tonight.
Once again the Hawks have an opportunity to make any kind of statement other than “we can’t find our own ass with both hands” in a game against a team they’re ostensibly competing against for a wild card spot. Things in Nashville are hanging by a thread and John Hynes isn’t exactly the cult of personality to rein everything in from the brink, but these are the types of games the Hawks have done miraculous things to avoid earning any kind of points in, so the Preds are rightfully looking at this as a get-right game. If Jeremy Suhonen had any kind of brain in his head he’d try to keep a presumptive line of Debrincat, Dach, and Garbage Dick away from Bonino, but that would require actual line matching, which still eludes the Hawks’ hunky coach. Their best hope is to try to capitalize on the power play, which Nashville has been woeful at. But they always find a way in these games, don’t they? Let’s go Hawks.