Defending Stanley Cup Champions. I still can't believe it when I type it, and not in a good way. The Red Wings are full of free curly fries and looking to make yet another statement to a divisional opponent. They're headed west to my neck of the woods for a tilt against the Blackhawks. The Hawks are coming off a home-and-home series against the Avs where they were outscored 11-8 while losing both games. I was hoping that somehow the earth would open up and swallow both of the teams as well as all of their fans, but was disappointed.
The Hawks are led on offense by Patrick Sharp, who has 31 points in 32 games. In all, the Hawks have 3 players over 10 goals, and Marian Hossa would be there had he not missed time due to injury.
Second City Hockey is your SB Nation Blackhawks' site. Venture over if you dare.
Jump past the.....jump.....where we'll hit the highlights to look for as well as making your predictions.
- Like the Blues, the Hawks are dealing with some injury issues. Marian Hossa is on IR, Viktor Stalberg is out after taking a high hit from Ryan O'Byrne against the Avs, and Fernando Pisani is banged up and expected to play. However, the big news is whether Patrick Kane is going to be able to go. As of this writing, he's listed as "doubtful", which is code for "I don't want my mouthguard to be ripped out of my mouth by Johan Franzen again, so I'm going to take one more game off". He's supposedly got a "lower-body injury" of some kind, and you can decide for yourself what that entails.
- Remember when people said that losing Tomas Kopecky was going to hurt the Red Wings? Hey: stop laughing. Well, I guess the novelty has worn of for many Hawks fans, as evidenced by this recap of their latest game. He may be approaching Jason Williams-levels of ineptness, and he's no longer our problem.
- The Red Wings would be wise to stay out of the box tonight: the Blackhawks have the 2nd best PP in the league with a success rate of 24%. However, they have the 28th ranked PK, so if they decide to goon it up like the Blues did, the Wings can make them pay in the only area that really matters: the scoreboard.
- That Marty Turco signing sure seemed like a good idea at the time, eh? Corey Crawford has come in and played well enough to pretty much take Turco's job, and Crawford will get the start tonight against the Wings. Hmmmm: a rookie coming in and out-playing an established veteran with a shaky history? I feel like I've seen this before.
- The big story from Wednesday night was Nicklas Lidstrom becoming the oldest defenseman in NHL history to record his first hat trick. However, lost in that was a 4 point night from Henrik Zetterberg, who looked a little rejuvenated against the Blues. The Circus has been good lately, but they haven't been blowing up the scoresheet. They'll likely be matched up against Toews and Sharp. Which is more important for the first line: shutting the Hawks down or scoring themselves? (and don't say both, because that is obviously win-win)
- The Hawks are currently sitting 11th overall in the Western Conference, despite having played the second most games in the conference. They have 35 points in 33 games, and they have already lost more games in regulation at home now (9) than they did all of last season (8). This is a game the Wings can win, and a victory here would go a long way to continuing the Wings' mission of taking back the division championship.
Score Prediction: I've picked against the Wings 3 times in the last week or so, and they've won each time. Why mess with what's working? 3-2 Blackhawks.
Player Prediction: Johan Franzen is due for a monster game, and the Hawks awaken the beast within.
Around the League: The Ducks lost to the Islanders, which should be worth negative points. Dion Phaneuf's return to Calgary was not a happy one as the Flames pounded on the Leafs, and both the Oilers and Blues scored 6 goals en route to victories.
Off-Topic Discussion: We're a week away from Christmas Eve, so what is the most memorable present you have ever received? It can be good or bad. Mine's a tie between my autographed, game-worn Steve Yzerman jersey and my youngest daughter.