RECORDS: Predators 26-15-3 Hawks 16-22-7
PUCK DROP: 7pm
THIRD MAN HANGERS-ON: On The Forecheck
Not exactly the easiest week for the Hawks. Sunday saw them face the hottest team in the league, a test which they passed. Then they got the Pacific leaders, who let them hang around for two periods before it was swirly time in the third. Tonight it’s one half of the Central’s twin towers, and then Saturday night it’s the defending Western champs who are tied with the team that just held the Hawks at arm’s length on Monday. Boy, the Devils and Rangers can’t get here fast enough!
It’s been a wonky year for the Preds, so the fact that they’re still sitting one point off the Jets, though having played two games more, is a real work by Peter Laviolette. Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, PK Subban, Kyle Turris (still) have all missed serious time, and yet here they are. Unfortunately for the Hawks, all but Turris are back in the lineup and this is just about as close to the full Predators experience as they’ve been since the beginning of the season.
To wit, a team that had won two of 10 road games before Monday went out and promptly destroyed the Leafs in Toronto, winning 4-0 and holding perhaps the biggest arsenal in the league to 18 shots. So yeah, that’s not exactly encouraging for tonight.
The Preds had something of a dip in December, as both Juuse Saros and Ol’Shit Hip fell off their hot pace. Which makes you think it was a structural thing, and it might have been as without Subban you’re only going to get away with playing Dan Hamhuis and his walking stick as a second pairing player for so long. Still, even with that, the Preds are third in the league in shots against overall per game and sixth in scoring-chances against at even-strength. They’re top-10 in both team Corsi-percentage and scoring-chance-percentage. The one area they’re deficient is they’re 18th in high-danger-scoring-chance-percentage, mostly because they don’t create a ton. That is probably a product of not having Arvidsson and Forsberg for a while, because this is a team that has always depended on its top line to do most of the damage. That has been corrected now.
It’s still perhaps the most devastating blue line in the league, with all of Ellis, Josi, and PK among the premier puck-movers in the league (sidenote: Has anyone in recent history racked up a more impressive social resume than Lindsey Vonn? If she were a dude she’d be Tony Stark. Get it, girl). This is clearly their strength.
Also, in four games in January they’ve given up four goals in regulation, with three of those somehow coming to the Red Wings. So yeah, the goalies are probably fine now. Go get ’em, Hawks!
For the Hawks, the question will be tonight where does the returning, conquering hero Henri Jokiharju slot in. The Hawks may have caught a break in that Brent Seabrook is sick, which would give them shelter to keep The HarJu on his normal side, on a shielded third-pairing, and keep the other two pairings together, as they’ve been working. No word on whether Colliton/Bowman spiked Seabrook’s nachos-for-four last night at Four Moons.
That will be for one night, but the Hawks are going to have to answer that question soon enough. The simplest and best solution would be to pair Keith and Seabrook again, but make that your third pairing. Then you can slot the four of Dahlstrom, Murphy, Gustafsson, and HarJu any way you want. You can leave Dahlstrom and Murphy to do the hard work-which they haven’t been as good at of late but it’s the best you’ve got–and let Gustafsson and Jokiharju bumslay a bit. Or you just divide it up evenly with Dalshtrom letting Jokiharju freelance more and Murphy doing the same for Gustafsson and Keith and Seabrook take the rest. This is the easiest and cleanest solution, and hence it’ll be the one the Hawks don’t take.
No word on what goalie is going tonight as it was a pretty informal get-together this morning. You would think it would have to be Delia, but we keep saying that. The other change is John Hayden is in for Chris Kunitz. Contain your excitement, we just mopped.
Not much to say here. The Hawks have played the Preds tough since giving up the first four goals to them in their first meeting in Nashville, and beat them there later. But this is the full Preds death squad minus Turris. And with something to play for. Might want to hide under your seat for this one.
Game #46 Preview Suite