( Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune )

Well, things are rolling along pretty smoothly, eh? I don’t even have anything to complain about! This must be a first.

The Blackhawks continue to lead the NHL in points and are looking pretty damn solid just about everywhere at the moment. But things are about to get real. Up until this point in December, only 4 of 11 games were against teams that would make the playoffs today. Over the next 15 games, 10 will be against teams that would qualify for the postseason.

The good news is that the cosmos decided to balance things out, giving the Hawks 11 home games through those 15.  While it’s fantastic to lead the Central, it should be noted that the Red Wings and Blues aren’t exactly buried yet. A bad stretch over the next few weeks and the Blackhawks could easily be sitting in 3rd place.

I’m going to hit on a few issues here and Tim will be around with a preview of the Kings game…

♦  Corey Crawford is between the pipes against the Kings on Wednesday. I say good for Quenneville. There is no question Crawford has not been the goaltender the Blackhawks signed over the summer, but he deserves a chance to ride this wave. He took his benching like a man and was solid in both his outings against Montreal and Columbus.

Having a confident starting goaltender will be huge for the Hawks as the schedule grows tougher over the next few months. What better time to get a frustrated goaltender going again than now, when a preponderance of upcoming games are played at home? If Crawford beats the Kings convincingly, I’d give him another shot on Friday night against Detroit (*spitting noise*).

Ray Emery has been a backup before and should be accustomed  to getting action after stretches of inactivity. I trust Razor getting an important start after sitting for a prolonged period of time than I do Crawford. I’ve been skeptical of the notion that the Blackhawks have a “good problem” here.

Simply put, if Crawford is off his game the Blackhawks have a problem – and it isn’t good. He should be given every chance to right the ship as soon as possible.

♦   What are we to make of Viktor Stalberg? The rather handsome Swede is red hot lately and has pretty well cemented his place in the lineup. For the first time in his career Stalberg has consistently made an impact in the offensive zone  and he now finds himself auditioning for role of Dave Bolland’s right wing – a spot which has been occupied in the past by studs such as Marty Havlat and Kris Versteeg. Can Stalberg fill these shoes? It’s still to early to tell. One thing is for certain – you don’t hear anyone talking about trading him for Travis Moen anymore, do you?

♦   Michael Frolik is quickly falling off the face of the earth. There is absolutely nothing that should make him untouchable as Stan Bowman supposedly tries to swing a deal. Frolik should be given credit for continuing to hustle and play solid defense after his demotion, but his PK time has shrunk and it has to be crushing for him to watch Stalberg settle into the role that he was supposed to play on this team. All that being said, your team is pretty damn good if Michael Frolik is the staple of it’s 4th line.

♦   Steve Montador, Patrick Kane and Marcus Kruger did not practice today. Kruger is the one to worry about here. He took a couple shots in the head in his first game back after suffering from concussion symptoms last night. No word on any of their availability tomorrow night.

♦   Dan Carcillo has declared himself ready to face the Kings. No word yet if he will dress. You could be forgiven for forgetting he was even part of the team. The Hawks haven’t missed a beat since he went down, in fact, they’ve improved.

♦   Can we get some sort of confirmation that Sami Lepisto is in fact alive?