seabs

 

Well, then.

Last time the Hawks saw the Detroit Red Wings, they were on the end of a handshake line after a pulsating, heart-pounding 7 Game series where the Hawks had looked dead and buried after four games, only to surge back and win through Brent Seabrook’s overtime goal. I’m sure you all remember. Since then, many things have changed: the Hawks have a new Championship banner in their rafters, Detroit have moved to the Eastern Conference and the fortunes of both teams have taken a decidedly different path.

 

While the Hawks are in their now-customary position at or near the pinnacle of the League, the Wings, tipped to clean up in the Atlantic Division,  are instead embroiled in a 7-team dogfight for the Wild Card slots in the East. Their situation has been exacerbated by a rash of injuries that has plagued their season. Most of their core has missed time this year, often more than once. As of this writing Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Jimmy Howard, Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss are all out of the line up. But, that said, the Wings weren’t lighting it up even before the injuries struck, certainly not to the extent that they were expected to once they left the Western Conference.

Interestingly, the Wings are 2-4-2 against Conference III teams this year: in the Atlantic only Buffalo have a worse record. They currently sit at 11th in the East and their consectutive post-seasons streak is in great danger of stopping at 22. I guess we should be laughing at them, and I’m sure many of you are. I, personally, don’t fully share the Detroit-hate that is such a big part of Blackhawks fandom: I guess because I came to the sport late and the Wings were already declining. The Canucks & Blues have been the bogeymen of my time as a Hawks fan. I suppose that’s how these things work: to the older generation of fans the Maple Leafs and North Stars were the blood-foe. Another thing to admire was the way that the Wings, at least in the Babcock era, played the game: it’s the template that the Hawks have based their own success on: possession of the puck and speed in attack being the watchwords.

However, the Wings will need no motivation for this game and are still capable of doing damage. Henrik Zetterburg has had to even more heavy lifting in terms of leadership in the absence of Datsyuk & Franzen. Whether he’s sill capable of carrying the entire team on his back is open to question but there is no doubting his phenonemal heart & will. Justin Abdelkader and Justin Abdelkader’s Elbow will be a pain in the backside (and heads). Tomas Tatar has been one of the brightest spots of this Wings campaign and Jonas Gustavsson has deputed well for Howard, even taking the #1 spot for a while. Niklas Kronwall is still Niklas Kronwall, a 2nd pairing guy pushed into 1st to try fill Lidstrom’s shoes.

As for Chicago, they’ve had two days off following two of their strongest games of the year to take four points from the Ducks & Bruins. Marian Hossa has been on a tear lately and you feel that Sharp & Toews are due. The 2nd line has ben a little bit of a worry, but with the way Saad and Kane are playing you feel that its just a matter of time until they get comfortable with each other and start destroying people. Bryan Bickell’s resurgence continues, so hopefully Q gives him enough time to make an impact tonight. Corey Crawford will get the start with Antti Raanta likely to go tomorrow in St Paul. No word on 6th D yet, but it’s Roszival’s turn.

Some people will doubtless say that tomorrow’s game, against a Conference III opponent, is more important than tonight. While those people are, technically, right they also have no soul. Hawks/Wings, even though no longer Divisional or even Conference rivals, is always special. The stakes may be lower, but every Hawks fan wants to see them scuttling back to Detroit beaten. With St Louis stuttering and even Anaheim showing some cracks, now would be an excellent time to apply some pressure at the top of the standings ahead of the Western road trip.  There are six points readily available this week. Now go get them.

 

Puck drops at 19.00.