FACEOFF: 6pm Central
TV/RADIO: WGN for both
THEIR CITY WAS GONE: Jackets Cannon
If Captain Fred were here… BLUE JACKETS!
The Hawks make their one trip to Ohio this season to take on the Blue Jackets this evening. Or to put it better, what’s left of the Blue Jackets. Because no one is carrying the injury list that the Jackets are at the moment. It kind of looks like the scene in Gone With The Wind out there.
Let’s just list off the names here: Nathan Horton, Mark Letestu, Corey Tropp, Ryan Murray, Matt Calvert, Fedor Tyutin, Artem Anisimov, Scott Hartnell and Boone Jenner are all the names missing off what would be their full-strength roster. That’s seven forwards and two top-four defensemen. Some backups like Marko Dano, Corey Tropp, Jack Skille, and Brian Gibbons have also hit the bricks. That’s over half a roster.
Even with that, the Jackets managed to win seven in a row as Todd Richards has never struggled to have this team playing hard and being a pain in the ass to play against. The streak was snapped on Thursday when Columbus lost in OT to the Caps at home.
How are they doing it? How they did it last year and the one before that. Sergei Bobrovsky went a little nuts in net. OH BOB! took all seven of those wins, making over 30 saves in five of them, including 52 in a win over Florida.
There’s really no other method to it, because the Jackets are a mess by any other measure, Bottom 10 in goals for and against. Bottom five in both shots-for and against per game. Their scoring is whatever Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno can string together. Foligno is going to cash in on his big season, though it may be a result of someone having to score on a team stripped of all its scoring by injury.
Foligno was skating with Morin on Thursday in Morin’s debut, and that should continue tonight though who is going to center it with Gibbons now hurt is another question. Foligno and Morin are the only two positive possession forwards on the Jackets. The only other threat is Johansen and Hawks-killer Cam Atkinson and his Alvin face. But still, OH BOB! is more than capable of stealing one against any team himself.
For the Hawks, Corey Crawford makes his return from his fight with the H.O.B steps and he’ll face a team the Hawks have beaten 13 straight times. Did you know that? Think that’ll be posted anywhere in the Columbus dressing room? The rest of the lineup should stay the same among the forwards and Duncan Keith is back from whatever his not-mumps was. That will probably see Rozsival back with Erixon, but the Jackets don’t have so much speed that’ll make dinner come back up. They have enough though if they get the matchups right.
Considering the lineup they have to ice, the Jackets are not going to try and track-meet this one with the Hawks. They wouldn’t anyway if they were anywhere near full-strength. The Jackets are kind of built on playing a heavy game, with lots of pucks chipped in deep and trying to cause a ruckus when the other team has it. This is where Rozie and Erixon could get in trouble as neither is a puck-mover. Oduya has also had his issue with this type of attack. Still, there aren’t that many forwards here tonight who should be able to get at them, you’d hope.
The Hawks were definitely wheezing at the end of that 4-in-6 stretch at the end of three out of four weeks on the road. They’ve had three days off now before another three in four before the Christmas break. They should at least look energetic. There’s not much here to battle other than the sheer guts of the Jackets and a goalie the Hawks haven’t had as much trouble with as other teams. It actually is kind of a goofy weekend as the Hawks face two of the hottest teams in the league in Columbus and Toronto back-to-back. But the underlying numbers tell you they should be meat and drink for the Hawks. Let’s find out.