Photo: AP

News Flash: the Columbus Blue Jackets fired their coach.

*Yawn*

Everything else about the team is still the same as the last time we discussed them. Key players are injured; marquee names are trying their damnedest but can’t produce; offense sucks; defense is worse; goaltending is pathetic.

I really wish there was more to go into here, but there really isn’t. I feel like I’m giving Columbus the short end of the stick compared to the other previews I do, but how many different ways can you say, “Columbus sucks?” I ran out months ago.

I’m glad the news isn’t that bad in Chicago, however we’re getting there. The list of the walking wounded got longer yesterday, as Patrick Sharp was placed in Injured Reserve and Ben Smith was recalled from Rockford.

On a personal note: I hope the fact that Head Coach Joel Quenneville has utility man John Scott on hand, but prefers to play a rookie almost a foot shorter and 75 lbs. lighter is an indication that Q’s infatuation with the human pylon has run its course. Only time will tell.

At any rate, for those of us who like to play 52-card pick up with the Blackhawks line combinations, it’s very literally anybody’s guess who we will see together at the morning skate today. I half expect to see Viktor Stalberg taking draws on the second line, the way the mad-scientist experiments are emanating from beneath Q’s mustache these days. But there is good news among the bedlam in the Blackhawks dressing room.

Rookie forwards Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes are continuing to show that they are going to fight to keep their spots on the roster, to the point of making seasoned players like Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik look downright expendable the last 3 tilts. In addition to giving Shaw and Hayes more minutes than 10-year veterans Andrew Brunette and Jamal Mayers of late, Coach Qstache  has given both of them a shift or two on the power play. Q apparently has a good amount of confidence in this pair of newcomers, it will be interesting to see if they can establish their roles on the team as the injured veterans return to action.

Defense allegedly got a boost with the return of Steve Montador during the Detroit game, but with 0 points on 2 shots and a minus-1 rating in 16 minutes of ice time, that’s the kind of “boost” we can do without. Dylan Olsen didn’t dent the minus column in the 4-0 loss to Colorado in just about the same amount of ice time. I’d only be willing to put up with that kind of performance from Monty for so long before I call the kid back up again.

And in goal, we are back to having to discuss who the starter should be. In his last 3 starts, Corey Crawford is 0-2-1, with a 3.67 GAA and .861 save percentage. Against Columbus we could probably coax Michael Veisor out of retirement and still have a shot at a win. But if we thought that CrawDaddy was out of his funk, we were sorely mistaken. As the schedule gets more intense over the next four weeks, it should not be assumed that Crawford will be our go-to guy. He just hasn’t put up the numbers.

Tonight is going to be a tough test. Sharp is out; Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Kane have put up a combined 4 goals and 7 assists in their last 5 games. That’s not going to do it: it’s time for the rest of this team to step the hell up.

We need goal support from the 3 rookie forwards, as well as Bickell, Brunette, Mayers, Stalberg and Frolik — who have combined for 1 (count it, one) goal in their last 5 games. We need elbows-and-assholes hustle on the back-check from every one of our forwards. We need good positional play, hard point shots and aggressive (but smart!) keeps at the blue line from the defense — and none of the horse-shit, Bobby Orr look-at-me-mom forays below the hash marks that result in odd-man rushes for the opposition (I’m looking at YOU, Mr. Leddy). And whoever is in net has to keep the GAA below 2, not 3. Our offensive output is about to go down; we need our goaltenders to keep our opponents’ offensive output down also.

Tonight is when this team decides to put up or shut up. We can beat Columbus handily if we play as a team, put in a full 60 minutes, and earn it. What are the Blackhawks going to do? We’ll find out when the puck drops.

The usual 7:30pm start time tonight at the United Center. Comcast SportsNet has your television coverage; the radio broadcast is on WGN AM-720; XM listeners can tune in on channel 207; and Sirius Premiere subscribers will find the game on channel 216.

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