Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Having endured one and a half periods of the festering colostomy bag that was last night’s game against Los Angeles, I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty about being in a bitter and sardonic mood as we approach the puck drop for the Blackhawks’ tilt against the Anaheim Ducks. Gordon Bombay’s squad is 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, pushing 5 of those tilts to overtime (and prevailing in 3 of them). Anaheim has climbed out of the laughing-stock category with Columbus and Edmonton, and is just 6 points out of a playoff spot as today’s action begins.

All things considered, I think I’d rather have the ‘Hawks playing the Sharks.

Los Angeles was kind of stoked for last night’s game, having just acquired Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets and re-uniting him with his former Flyers’ teammate Mike Richards. But apart from being yet another reminder that the Blackhawks’ penalty killing deserves its fourth-worst in the league designation (a stat artificially inflated by its success early in the season — they’re DEAD LAST in the time since the All-Star Game), the biggest realization that hopefully everybody on the squad takes away from last night’s game is that the Blackhawks are little better than a Div. III JV squad when Captain Jonathan Toews doesn’t dress for the game.

There is no jump. There is no urgency. There is no intensity. There is no drive. There is no commitment. Even though there are still 20 guys on the lineup card, none of them are stepping up and taking the place of the name that isn’t on there. Apparently they are all expecting one of their teammates to do it. The end result: the guy who gives a shit is home in Chicago watching the game on TV and (like me) probably throwing things at the screen and turning it off halfway through the game.

Let’s hope tonight is not a repeat of last night, though I am not optimistic.

Anaheim’s surge seems to have been triggered by the organ-eye-zation making it known publicly that some of their biggest names would and could be for sale as the trade deadline approached. The next thing you know, those same names started lighting up the scoresheet and the team sprung to life. Now, Anaheim is within sight of a playoff spot and continuing to build momentum with their offense hitting on all cylinders.

Another key component of Anaheim’s ascent is goaltender Jonas Hiller. The acquisition of backup Dan Ellis turned out to be a waste of time, as groin injuries has kept Ellis on the sidelines most of the season. He hasn’t seen a minute on the ice since before the new year, leaving the backup job in the hands of minor-leaguers that Coach Grab-Your-Sack is reluctant to rely on. The end result: Hiller has taken every… single… start… since January 10th, and has been on the ice for at least one period in all but 3 games since Thanksgiving.

One would think that this merciless pace would drive the guy into the ground like a tent stake, but exactly the opposite has happened. Since January 24th, Hiller has allowed more than 1 even-strength goal against just 3 times. Read that sentence again. The guy’s a friggin’ machine, and though it has not yet been confirmed, with 20 straight starts behind him, I think we can expect Hiller to be in goal tonight.

As an aside, Columnist Randy Youngman of the Orange County Register has discovered that this run by the Ducks has some historic significance if it plays out in their favor. Oh goodie. Glad to be yet another doormat for you to wipe your feet on as you take our spot in the playoffs, assholes.

So what’s up in the Blackhawks’ camp? Not a God-blessed thing. No trade from GM Stan Bowman; no change to injury status of any of our walking wounded; and no indication that Head Coach Joel Quenneville will deviate from his misguided strategy of dressing John Scott and juggling lines like he’s trying to throw popcorn into somebody’s mouth — and missing every time.

You’ve heard the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and over again, and expecting different results. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the current state of the Chicago Blackhawks. At this rate, and under these conditions, I think missing the playoffs is an idea we might have to get used to.

Administrative nonsense: save for the afore-mentioned Dan Ellis, it is a healthy Ducks squad that will take the ice tonight. And as mentioned, no change to the injury status for Jonathan Toews, Niklas Hjalmarsson, or Steve Montador — all of whom are watching from their couches in Chicago. Neither team has confirmed who is starting in goal, but this prognosticator will posit that it will be Ray Emery facing Jonas Hiller.

6:00pm puck drop Chicago time. If you’re brave enough to watch, the game will be live on NBC Sports Net (formerly Versus) across the U.S. WGN AM-720 has the radio broadcast; XM subscribers should look for the game on channel 214; and Sirius Premiere customers can listen in on channel 213.

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