Photo: Associated Press

In a perfect world, Mikhail Grabovski would be skating out on to the ice at the United Center on Wednesday night wearing the Indian Head sweater. Such is not the case, as Chicago failed to acquire the playmaking forward that it needs at the trade deadline. Chicago fans will get a chance to see Grabs, however: he and the Leafs will be making a rare appearance at the UC, their first since November of 2009.

The bad news is that Toronto has been a team that, like the ‘Hawks, has had streaks of unstoppability during the season. The good news is, now is not one of those times. The Leafs have notched a win only once in the last 10 games, a losing streak severe enough to drop them to 10th place in the East and out of playoff contention.

Those familiar with the Maple Leafs are aware that February is usually when any successful Leafs squad starts to implode, and this year is no exception. They have wheeled the defibrillator and the oxygen cart into Damien Cox’s cube at the Star.

As has been the case since, oh, the days of Curtis Joseph, goaltending is the problem in Toronto. Last season saw the rise of the rookie sensation that literally *did* come out of nowhere in the form of James Reimer. The kid popped into the Toronto lineup due to injuries to no fewer than 3 of the Leafs’ mainstay backstops. Then, to the shock of the entire league, Reimer posted a 20-10 record with 3 shutouts in just 37 games.

Thinking that they had found their saviour (see what I did there?), the Leafs signed the kid to a 3-year deal that catapulted him to the starting job and put over $2 million in his bank account. Aaaaaannnnddd that’s when both Reimer and Maple Leafs’ brass got a hard lesson in something called the “Sophomore Slump.” Reimer came out of the gate in 2011 playing terribly. His mediocre backup Jonas Gustavsson was asked to carry some of the load, but Gustavsson’s performance to date was the reason he hadn’t earned the starting job himself. The potent Toronto offense led by Phil Kessel — finally living up to expectations — Joffrey Lupul, and the afore-mentioned Grabovski was the only thing preventing a complete collapse. At least, until now.

Leafs’ GM Brian Burke continues to bitch and moan and tell everyone that they’re a bunch of idiots. He also continues to re-assert his confidence in Head Coach Ron Wilson. The lack of any significant moves at the trade deadline whipped the rabid Toronto fans and media into a “Fire Burke and Wilson” frenzy, which will reach deafening levels should the Leafs miss the playoffs. Burke didn’t help his cause at all with this glib rejoinder in front of a hundred microphones:

We’ve spent 3 years putting together some depth here. We’re not going to blow it all up to try to squeak into the 8th spot.

I expect that brought the torch-and-pitchfork crowds out in force on sports/talk radio north of the border. For now Wilson and Burke’s jobs are safe. And by that I mean, they haven’t been fired today.

Of course, today isn’t over yet.

On the Blackhawks’ end of things, two very minor moves were all GM Stan Bowman was able (or willing) to pull off on Monday as well. We will welcome newcomer Johnny Oduya (Lord, just wait until Pat Foley starts murdering that one after a couple of whiskey sours) to the Men of Four Feathers in his Blackhawks debut tonight at the UC. Oduya comes to us from the Winnipeg Jets, and his biggest claim to fame was being part of the Ilya Kovalchuk trade with Atlanta two years ago.

Oduya is 30 years old, shoots left. He stands 6′ even and weighs in at 190 lbs. Not much of a shot, not much of a playmaker, doesn’t hit much, doesn’t fight hardly at all. His best years were with New Jersey, where he had two seasons with more than 20 points and finished the year north of plus-20. And given the current condition of the Blackhawks’ roster, this will come as good news: Oduya has rarely missed any games due to injury. He will wear #27 for the Blackhawks tonight.

The other deal that rocked the Blackhawks dressing room was the departure of John “Treebeard” Scott to the New York Rangers, a transaction with multiple implications that Jim reviewed thoroughly in the piece he posted on Tuesday.

We will now pause while you finish your happy dance.

Take all the time you need.

The only other lineup-related news is, unfortunately, not good: neither Captain Jonathan Toews nor defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson will be in the lineup for the home team tonight. It was hoped that Toews would be available for this tilt, however he was ruled out after practice on Tuesday. In order to fill the void and provide some “spark” to the lineup, as well as replace the two powerful fists that left when big #32 cleaned out his locker, rookie forwards Andrew Shaw and Brandon Bollig were called up from Rockford. Shaw we’ve seen; Bollig is a real newcomer, and apparently is quite a piece of work.

Bollig is 6’2″, 223 lbs, so not exactly a colossus. In 55 games in Rockford he has 4 goals and 115 penalty minutes. But there is something different about this kid, we are told. Stephen Nelson, studio host for Rockford IceHogs broadcasts, had this to say on Twitter about Bollig’s (*ahem*) unique demeanor:

Something Blackhawks fans will learn about Bollig: during fights he’s usually smiling and/or laughing. He enjoys it.

EEEYYYIIIKKKEEESSS! It will be interesting to see this kid drop the gloves. Bollig was skating on a line with Jimmy Hayes and Jamal Mayers in practice yesterday, a line that boasts an average size of 6′ 3″, 222 lbs. I hope the UC medical staff pays close attention tomorrow night. They may have themselves a busy evening.

Administrative nonsense: Toronto arrives in Chicago with a healthy squad at their disposal; Chicago will be without the services of Toews, Hjalmarsson, and Steve Montador who rounds out the trio of concussions for the club. Jonas Gustavsson will start in goal for the Maple Leafs; Corey Crawford is the announced starter for the Blackhawks.

7:00pm puck drop for this Original Six matchup this evening. The game will be seen live across Canada on TSN, and locally here in Chicago on Comcast SportsNet. Broadcast radio is WGN AM-720; XM subscribers should tune in on channel 212; and Sirius Premiere customers will find the game on channel 211.

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