Tim Currell

Tim spent Saturday mornings playing street hockey in suburban Toronto before moving to Chicago at age 11. He played amateur hockey in Chicagoland through high school, got his B.A. in Communications, then wasted 7 years as a news/talk radio host. Today he tinkers with computers and web sites and yells at the TV a lot.


Posts by Tim Currell

Home On The Range(rs): Blackhawks Take Manhattan

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 29: Henrik Lundqvist  of the New York Rangers sits on the ice after allowing Erik Cole, of the Carolina Hurricanes, to score the game-winning goal in the third period on October 29, 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. The Hurricanes defeated the Rangers 4- 3. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

The New York Rangers have been the blogosphere’s punching bag for more than a decade now, particularly as the retirement home for over-the-hill veterans to be paid ludicrous sums of money. That strategy resulted in a lengthy streak of teams that missed the playoffs, despite having boasted such luminaries as Leech, Lafontaine, Kovalev, Nedved, Lindros, Barnaby, Bure, Holik, Gretzky, and Messier.

The Hall Of Fame names aren’t as prevalent anymore, though the name Jagr graced the roster as recently as two seasons ago. But that year, the Rangers did make the playoffs. Though the same could not be said for last year. The Rangers have nearly half of their salary cap dollars tied up in just four players, and they missed the playoffs in 2009-10. Despite the reduction in marquee names, the results are the same.

Backstopping the effort is goaltender Henrik Lundqvist boasting an impressive .921 save percentage, though that comes with a 2.76 GAA because of an average of 34 shots against per game. In front of him is a defensive corps comprised of largely competent yet wholly unimpressive individuals, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi anchoring the platoon.

Offense is spread surprisingly evenly, with 11 players above the 4-point mark after 10 games, and only four players off the scoresheets entirely (and three of those having played in only one or two games). Tough guys Brandon Prust and Sean Avery provide the muscle: and as luck would have it, Marian Gaborik, Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal are all out of the Rangers lineup with injuries.

The Rangers bring a 5-4-1 record back into Madison Square Garden for this tilt against the Blackhawks. They are brimming with confidence after a shutout against the Maple Leafs two nights ago, so we can expect them to put up quite a struggle. A win tonight moves them up to 6th place in the Eastern Conference — good enough to make the playoffs.

For the Blackhawks’ part, it’s another patchwork lineup again tonight, though one of the pieces we’ve been missing is reportedly back where it belongs.

Blackhawks’ announcer Ed Olczyk went on NHL Live on the NHL Network today, and confirmed that Blackhawks’ defenseman Brian Campbell will make his season debut tonight. Campbell’s return will take a huge load off of overworked blueliners Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, and should help the +/- stats of Niklas Hjalmarsson — not to mention reduce the amount of playing time for pitiful fill-in Jassen Cullimore. Soupy suffered a sprained MCL in a pre-season game October 1, and his absence has been the hole most desperately in need of filling.

But not the only hole. Winger Marian Hossa is still out, as is underperforming center Dave Bolland. Off-season league-minimum acquisition Ryan Potulny and what-the-@$%$#-is-this-guy-doing-here forward Ben Smith were recently called up from Rockford to provide warm bodies to pretend to fill those voids. The Hawks’ win over Minnesota on Saturday began the process of healing from a humiliating defeat at the hands of the dead-last Edmonton Oilers the previous night. With luck that trend will continue this evening.

Administratively speaking, Bryan Bickell and Nick Boynton are the healthy scratches, no official word on who is starting in net, but there is little reason not to suspect Marty Turco will be in goal.

Game starts at 6:00pm. The NHL Network has national coverage for tonight’s game, though Chicago locals can get coverage on Comcast SportsNet. Broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers will find the game on channel 204.

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Edmonton Remodeled the Basement, But It Still Stinks

Photo: thestar.com

Following the dead-last finish by the Edmonton Oilers last season, the first thing to do was boot Pat Quinn out of his day-to-day role, and up to middle management where he could do less damage. Tom Renney was brought in to steer the team to a better finish than last year. That hurdle could be cleared by a paraplegic tortoise.

Then the team was re-made via the draft, some trades, and the promotion of some youngsters from the minor leagues, Juniors, and the European ranks. Veterans Ethan Moreau, Mike Comrie, Patrick O’Sullivan, Ryan Stone, Chris Minard, Robert Nilsson, Marc Pouliot and Riley Nash were all given early release for good behavior, so as to clear space for the newest victims.

The Oilers brought in some experience in the form of former Blackhawks Colin Fraser and Jim Vandermeer, but mostly young talent — first among them (quite literally) being Taylor Hall, highly-coveted superstar forward and number one overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft. Edmontonians hailed the super-scoring wunderkind as the next coming of Wayne Gretzky. They would soon be disappointed. Through 8 games, Hall is a minus-4 with only 3 points.

Joining Hall in the category of those most likely to have their skates filled with shaving cream were Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi, both of whom had the benefit of lower expectations given the blazing hot spotlight being shined on their teammate. So far they have both performed better than Taylor Hall, but it’s still early.

Goaltending questions also plagued the Oilers in the off-season, as former-Blackhawk netminder and now Edmonton mainstay goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin came dangerously close to starting the 2010-11 season in, umm… jail! Found guilty on DUI charges (twice the legal blood-alcohol limit while driving at nearly twice the speed limit) in Arizona, Khabibulin received a fine and a 30-day jail sentence. However, his legal team is appealing, and they managed to convince the judge to let him stay free on bail while the appeal is in progress.

This debacle coming so close to training camp, the Oilers were forced to sign veteran netminder Martin Gerber, who was promptly placed on waivers once Khabibulin weaseled his way out of a stint in the pokey. Khabby is backed up by Jeff Delauriers who has not seen any action to date.

So have the improvements helped? Will Edmonton be able to climb out of the basement? Not so far. Edmonton is (you guessed it) dead last in the Western Conference with a 2-4-2 record, giving up an average of 3.5 goals on 33 shots against per game. The much-hoped-for offense hasn’t materialized as yet either: Defenseman Ryan Whitney is the only player with more than 5 points.

So the Blackhawks face a team with little offense, shoddy defense and porous goaltending, that is also playing the second half of back-to-back games after losing to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a shootout last night. Looks like we have a recipe for an overwhelming Blackhawks victory this evening.

This is all good news, because if ever you wanted to play the worst team in the league, it is when you just lost one of your leading scorers to injury. Already suffering through the lengthy absence of defenseman Brian Campbell, the Blackhawks announced on Thursday that Marian Hossa will be out for the next two weeks with an upper-body injury. Right wing Ben Smith has been recalled from Rockford, and will be in the lineup tonight against the Oilers.

Wait a second. Ben Smith? BEN SMITH? Now we know that Jeremy Morin is not ready to return from his injury yet, so he’s out. But you still have Igor Makarov, Brandon Pirri, and Kyle Beach to choose from. Rob Klinkhammer, as un-exciting as he may be, is also an option. Yet they recall Ben Friggin’ Smith?

I swear, this guy has pictures of Stan Bowman doing the watusi with somebody’s niece. That’s the only way Ben Smith gets the call over these other forwards.

At any rate, the jumbled lines from Wednesday night’s victory over Los Angeles will be jumbled again, which won’t hurt much, since scoring output was no better than when the usual suspects were in their usual places. So expect Coach Joel Quenneville to be playing his 60-minute game of musical wingers.

Defense should be unchanged, though it’s a toss-up as to whom between John Scott and Jordan Hendry will be enjoying press box popcorn for the tilt. Since this is the first game of a Blackhawks’ back-to-back, I expect Corey Crawford to start against Edmonton. Give him the weaker of the two starts to pad his stats a bit.

Game time is 7:30: TV is Comcast SportsNet, broadcast radio WGN AM-720, and XM channel 208.

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UPDATE: Marian Hossa Out “a couple of weeks”

Photo: AP/Yahoo Sports

Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville announced following practice today that winger Marian Hossa would miss “a couple of weeks” with an upper-body injury.

He said that the injury “was not serious in nature” and “would not require surgery.”

Hmmm…

Speculation continues to float that Hossa has sustained a concussion, which the evidence would support. Also possible is a re-injury of the shoulder that required surgery last summer — causing Hossa to miss more than one-quarter of the season.

Hossa has 7 goals and 11 points, second on the Blackhawks in both categories. The Hawks are averaging less than 3 goals scored per game. Losing his output will likely have a negative effect on the team’s standings in the Conference.

Unless some our other million-dollar men can start earning their kibble. Time will tell…

Hawks Beat Kings: Antti Who?

Photo: AP/Yahoo Sports

Blackhawks fans got to see the team put one in the win column at the United Center last night, and against one of the better teams in the league at that. But looking beyond the net result, that’s where the good news ends.

Well, almost. The undisputed star of the game was Blackhawks goaltender Marty Turco, who turned away 33 shots for his fifth win in his last six starts. Turco’s rebound control was nearly flawless, he was mindful of his now-legendary five-hole weakness, and with a little help from his three red, iron friends behind him he put on a Dominic Hasek-like display of acrobatics and aeronautics throughout the game. Turco now boasts a .927 save percentage, good for 3rd in the league among goalies with more than five starts.

Antti… Antti who?

Outside of the crease, however, the news ranged from bad to worse. The bad news was, apart from seeing score sheet contributions from unusual sources, Coach Joel Quenneville’s line shake-up could hardly be called a success. Managing only 28 shots on goal — including a mere two from defensemen whose mothers call them something other than Duncan — the Hawks goal production continues to be a disappointment. The Hawks average under 3 goals scored per game, and they did nothing to boost that statistic last night. Were Kings starter Jonathan Quick in goal instead of backup Jonathan Bernier, the outcome could have been much different. And once again conditioning showed itself to be a weak spot, as was evident at the beginning of the third period.

Then, there’s worse. Blackhawks powerhouse winger Marian Hossa left the game early in the second period with an undisclosed upper-body injury and did not return. No information was available after the final buzzer, and we will have to wait until a formal evaluation takes place today before we know the extent of his injury — and how much time he is expected to miss.

In case you have been paying too much attention to which porn star is in Charlie Sheen’s closet this week, Hossa missed the first 20-odd games of last season with a shoulder injury that required surgery to repair. If that shoulder has been re-injured, we may be looking at weeks, or even months before his return.

Discount Hossa’s contribution to the score sheet, and the Hawks are averaging just barely over 2 goals per game. That’s not enough to keep a .500 record, let alone make the playoffs. Right now we are getting meager (that’s putting it lightly) contributions from the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Dave Bolland and the youngsters in the forward ranks. If Hossa goes under the knife again, and these guys don’t start to crank it up, it is going to be a season we will all want to forget.

Stay tuned here, and join us on Twitter if you haven’t already for the latest news. We’ll be watching the Marian Hossa injury reports come in as they happen, and we’ll pass it along. Say a prayer, rub that rabbit’s foot, or whatever it is you do. This could be big, for all the wrong reasons.

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Kings Visit Chicago: Pardon us while we kick your Majesty’s arse

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 21: Wayne Simmonds  of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates after scoring a second period goal against the Phoenix Coyotes during the NHL game at Jobing.com Arena on October 21, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Usually I start these previews by taking a look at our opponent for the night. But there has actually been some turbulence in BlackhawkLand, so it’s worth exploring that first and getting to the Kings in a few minutes.

As you know, Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville is not shy about moving players around the lineup, even in the middle of games. Well, Tuesday at practice he apparently had just drawn names out of a hat, because exactly *nobody* could have predicted what combinations were on display. Observe and be confused:

Line 1: Patrick Sharp / Jonathan Toews / Jack Skille

Sharp back on the wing, where he’s most productive; Jonathan Toews at center, no surprise there; and look who’s earned himself a chance to play with the big boys! Bet he was out ordering the biggest hunk of meat in the joint at Gibson’s last night.

Line 2: Troy Brouwer / Tomas Kopecky / Marian Hossa

Kopecky at center, a position he played while with the Red Wings (*spitting noise*), but the Hawks have yet to try him at this position for anything more than an in-game stint. We have seen how well he seems to work with Marian Hossa, so that seems to make sense. Brouwer will provide some defensive capabilities and a little grit.

Now things get weird.

Line 3: Viktor Stalberg / Dave Bolland / Patrick Kane

The Slump Line. Bolland has been downright depressing, Kane’s hangover seems to have lasted longer than expected, and Stalberg has shown fleeting bursts of exceptional play amid long stretches of demonstrative mediocrity. Two speedy wingers might be a good combination, as we saw with Kane and Jeremy Morin during the pre-season. But merely the fact that Kane is relegated to the third line is a message in itself: pick it up, kid. Those goals don’t score themselves.

Line 4: Bryan Bickell / Jake Dowell / Fernando Pisani

Two fourth line regulars and, in my opinion, one headed for the scrap heap. Pisani was as long a shot as Ryan Potulny, who has already rode the Greyhound out to Rockford. Pisani has been all but invisible so far this season, and while he wasn’t expected to be anything but a role player, the role he’s played so far is “Dead Weight #3.”

All of this is an attempt to get the once-potent Blackhawks offense to kick it into gear. We make a big deal out of this every time Coach Q tries new line combinations in practice. The Twitterscape and Blogosphere nearly had an aneurysm when the initial reports came out of practice. But just watch: after all of this hullaballoo, QStache will have Toews centering Kane and Brouwer, and Sharp between Hossa and Kopecky by midway through the second period.

The Blackhawks got even better news on the Brian Campbell beat: he may be back in the lineup in under a week, making my two-to-three weeks prediction from yesterday look rather foolish. But even more foolish would be bringing Campbell back too early, only to have him suffer a season-ending injury to the same MCL. I hope these doctors know what they’re doing, and don’t screw us harder by bringing him back too soon.

That leaves the defensive pairings just where they were, with John Scott and Jordan Hendry drawing straws to see who sits this one out. Later today we’ll find out who gets the start in net: bank on it being Marty Turco, but follow us on Twitter at @blackhawksup and you’ll know as soon as it’s announced. Come on, you know you want to…

The Hawks will meet up with a Kings team that is off to a very strong start. 6-2 with 12 points, good for second place in the NHL. Anze Kopitar leads the charge for the Kings’ offense, though they are spreading the wealth rather wide: ten players have one or more tallies in only eight games. On the back end, netminder Jonathan Quick boasts a 1.95 GAA with only one loss to speak of. Yikes. The only good news is, defensive wunderkind Drew Doughty will not be in the lineup tonight, having had a setback in his recovery from what is being called an “apparent” concussion.

I’ve had a concussion, and it’s pretty “apparent” when you have one. If you can’t remember getting hit, you have a concussion. Don’t know why they’re beating around the bush.

The off-season was an average one for the Kings. After losing out on the Ilya Kovalchuk Sweepstakes, they went about building their team up with mere mortals. Sean O’Donnell and Fredrik  Modin were among those allowed to walk; long-time Leafs underachiever Alex Ponikarovsky came over from the Penguins, and Canucks’ cast-off Willie Mitchell was brought in to bolster the blue line.

Suffice to say that the LA Kings are rolling, and it’s going to be hard to stop them, especially with our deficient defense and sporadic offense. Game time 7:30pm, TV is Comcast SportsNet; broadcast radio WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers will hear the game on channel 208.

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October Mail Bag: Injuries, Trapezoids, and Fool-Idiot Suck-Weasels

Letters... We get letters...

We have a little break in the action, the Blackhawks are enjoying three days off to lick their wounds from the embarrassing losses over the weekend, so we thought it was time to open up the Mail Bag and answer some of your Blackhawks and hockey questions. Lots of new hockey fans in the Chicago area, so remember: there are no stupid questions!

How serious is Brian Campbell’s injury, and when do we expect him back?

— Dave, River North

A sprained MCL (medial collateral ligament, it’s a vertical stretchy thing on the inside of your knee) is not as serious as a torn MCL, so the Hawks dodged a bullet there. Plus there’s good news from the weekend: Mr. Campbell skated for the first time in the last couple of days. He’s on target for his return to the lineup, which is… they’re not saying. But figure at least two more weeks, and maybe three. He’s got to get doctor’s clearance for participating in practices, and then to do contact drills, both of which usually take a week. They’re talking about him returning for the Circus Road Trip, which starts on November 17th. So cross your fingers.

I’ve watched hockey before, and they’ve put some new lines on the ice behind the net that I don’t understand. What do those mean?

— Huey, Mundelein

Nothing whatsoever. It’s called the trapezoid, and in theory it is supposed to be a restricted zone where goaltenders can’t play the puck. But neither the goaltenders nor the referees really know what that means, so play continues as it did before the area was created. Just ignore it.

How come some goals get reviewed and some goals don’t?

— Mika, Kankakee

Because some refs are idiots, and some aren’t! No seriously, in theory every goal is reviewed. But when the guys that review the goals think the refs might have screwed up, they stop the proceedings on the ice and take as much time as they want to in order to sort things out. Whether each goal is *actually* reviewed, I’ve seen enough blown calls to believe that’s not the case.

There is also allegedly a “war room” back in Toronto, where every goal from every game is reviewed to make sure the *reviewers* are getting the call right. But that’s a load of crap. They just got the dedicated satellite feeds because they wanted free Playboy Channel.

Hey! They made a big deal about fool-idiot suck-weasel referee Bill McCreary retiring last year. But then I watched the Blackhawks game the other day, and there he is! What gives?

— Mark, Addison

Yes, they did. And yes, you did. Buckethead is back, and despite being 54 years old and barely able to skate two lengths of the ice without an oxygen mask, Mr. McCreary will be donning the stripes and blowing call after call after call again for the 2010-11 season. Apparently NHL Director of fool-idiot suck-weasels Terry Gregson talked McCreary out of retiring late last season, because apparently there were too many veteran fool-idiot suck-weasels retiring, and the rookie fool-idiot suck-weasels replacing them were actually worse! If you can believe that.

I once watched two games with the Blackhawks playing against Tampa Bay and Florida, during which a grand total of four goals were scored. Replays for each of the four showed very clearly that McCreary, reffing both games, blew three out of the four goal/no-goal calls. That’s a 75% failure rate, and that was over ten years ago. He hasn’t gotten any better since then.

If the Penguins offered to trade Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, do you think we should take the deal?

— Stewart, West Loop

Stew, it is my fervent hope that Jonathan Toews turns into the Blackhawks version of Steve Yzerman, playing his entire career in a Blackhawks uniform and wearing the captain’s ‘C’ until they raise the #19 to the roof of the United Center. I would be surprised if we could keep Patrick Kane that long, as the contract offers that will await him upon the day he becomes an unrestricted free agent will likely be out of reach for the Hawks.

That having been said, I think if the phone rang in Stan Bowman’s office and somebody from the Penguins organization were on the line offering that deal, I think we’d have to sedate the Blackhawks’ GM to keep him from laughing himself to death. I would be hard pressed to find two players on any team right now that match the output — and potential — of Kane and Toews. And the two flame-outs from the Pens that you mentioned definitely don’t come close.

Who do you think the Blackhawks’ biggest rival is this year, Detroit or Vancouver?

— Brian, Joliet

I think the Blackhawks’ biggest rival this year is the Blackhawks from *last* year. The fans won’t be concerned about whether we beat Detroit or Vancouver so much as whether we win the cup again. As Jeff has outlined here recently, it’s a fool’s errand to expect a championship team this year. But that won’t stop the fans’ expectations from being elevated to that point. As for Detroit and Vancouver, we’ll bitch-slap both of them enough for us to enjoy this year. Don’t you worry.

The Red Wings are going to win it all this year!!!

— Chris, Novi, MI

Everybody’s entitled to their opinion, Chris. Now go put your nuts in a toaster.

That’s it for now, but keep those letters and e-mails coming! See you in November with another edition of Mail Bag.

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Some Gotta Win, Some Gotta Lose…

Photo: Getty Images

Since Monday, players on the St. Louis Blues have been doing their usual off-day routine: daily practice, dry-land training, watching last week’s episode of “Glee” over and over and over, and cursing their agent for landing them on  such a suck-bag team.

What they haven’t done since Monday is play a game. That means they are going to be well-rested, fired up in front of the home-town crowd, and looking for revenge after blowing a 2-0 lead with 6 minutes to go in the third and falling to the Blackhawks 3-2 in OT. Their wrists will be a little sore from… well, they’ve had the whole week off, you figure it out.

No changes in the lineup for St. Louis, as Cam Janssen is still not ready to return from the concussion he suffered while masturbating running into his own teammate during a game October 9th. Goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Ty Conklin will likely split the starts on the Blues Friday/Saturday back-to-back games, but word is we will be facing Halak on Friday.

The Blues hope to win games on defense and goaltending this year, but that plan is already showing its weaknesses. They slid to a 2-1-2 record following Monday’s OT loss to the Blackhawks, and they are going to have to pick up the scoring if they expect to win anything. 14 goals in 5 games is not a recipe for a winning team.

Despite the history between these clubs, there wasn’t much to report in the penalties department from the last outing. A Bryan Bickell/David Backes rematch is possible, but judging from the way the teams played earlier this week, I’m not expecting the gloves to be dropped.

On the Blackhawks’ side, Coach Q seems to have Jordan Hendry, Jack Skille and Viktor Stalberg’s names in a hat and is drawing one after each practice to see who sits. We’ll find out after the morning skate who today’s victim is, the safe money is on Hendry.

One wonders why it won’t be John Scott, who may as well be painted day-glo orange and plopped down on the blue line for guys to skate around. Watching him out there is like watching somebody try to eat linguine with a spork. He simply doesn’t have the tools for the job.

It’s been hard not to notice the production from the “energy line” wingers Skille and Stalberg. With Stalberg displaying his sniper capabilities by flicking one past a stunned Roberto Luongo for the Blackhawks’ only regulation-time goal on Wednesday, we may see those two grow into bigger roles with the team as the season continues.

We are still waiting for the Blackhawks who aren’t named “Hossa” or “Sharp” to start scoring like they are capable of doing. Conditioning continues to be a problem with the Blackhawks, as the OT period against the Blues on Monday illustrated frighteningly. The Hawks were badly out-skated and allowed 7 shots in under 4 minutes of play before Patrick Sharp flipped home the game winner. Shots against was a factor again against Vancouver, with the Hawks giving up 29 in regulation and another 8 in the overtime period. Thank goodness Marty Turco is starting to look very solid between the pipes — but relying on him will come back to bite us, mark my words.

In Brian Campbell news, the injured defenseman is reported to be on target in his recovery from a sprained MCL suffered during pre-season, and should start skating again soon. Look for doctors to clear him to lace ‘em up next week.

Follow us on Twitter at @blackhawksup and you’ll get the latest on healthy scratches and starting goaltenders once they’re announced. Also check back here for post-game wrap-ups and our exclusive “Boxing” feature tomorrow morning.

Puck drops at 7:00, and it’s dropping from a rather sexy hand at Scottrade Center tonight: IRL hottie Danica Patrick will be on hand to help the players pitch some tents. I gotta say, as a race car driver, she’s a great bikini model.

TV is Comcast SportsNet, broadcast radio WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers can find the game on channel 207.

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Thank You Sir May I Have Another: Blackhawks vs. Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks are not off to the best start in 2010-11. Their most promising game came Sunday in a 5-1 win over Carolina, and with all the this-is-our-year talk among Canucks fans this fall, you could almost hear them breathe a sigh of relief after that outing. But they followed it up with a 6-2 beat-down at the hands of the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. Suckers…

Speaking of the Minnesota game, I’m not going to waste anyone’s time with another re-hashing of the fan-shoving incident. Rick Rypien is about to become the poster child for You Don’t Fuck With Colin Campbell, so we have one less idiot with an orca on his sweater to worry about this evening.

For those of you who need a refresher on the Canucks, they’re the team that gives us fits every year until we figure out that their goaltender is a headcase who falls apart after he lets in the third goal. Once that happens, the game turns into a shooting gallery.

I actually read an article that claimed Roberto Luongo was the Blackhawks’ “nemesis.” Holy crap: do you WATCH hockey? We made that pansy bitch cry. I got your nemesis right here, chump.

Mr. Luongo and his 3.38 GAA/.888 SVG arrive at the United Center for the first of four shellackings before we bounce them out of the playoffs for the third straight year. He has had the captain’s ‘C’ ripped publicly from his chest, and he brings with him Danielle and Henrietta Sedin, who between them have 18 points so far this year. The rest of the team combined has 24. Explains their 2-3-1 record, doesn’t it?

Some faces have departed since we last saw the Canucks in the playoffs: forwards Pavol Demitra, Kyle Wellwood, and Ryan Johnson; blueliners Willie Mitchell and Brad Lukowich; and backup goaltender Andrew Raycroft are all out the door. Forward Raffi Torres and Manny Malhotra, as well as defensemen Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard are new to the lineup. All represent significant upgrades over their departed colleagues.

But the combination hasn’t really gelled so far. The fact that the Sedins are so far ahead of their teammates in scoring indicates that there is much tinkering left to be done. The Canucks’ rear guard has been riddled with injuries early in the season, so we can expect to see guys doing stupid stuff that allows Hawks forwards to squeeze out odd-man rushes and breakaways. Plays right into our hands.

Speaking of the Blackhawks, few changes in the lineup tonight since we’re on such a roll: Jordan Hendry is the likely scratch, Viktor Stalberg is back in, and John Scott shifts back to D. Marty Turco is starting in net, which makes sense: expect Corey Crawford to start one of our back-to-back games on Friday & Saturday.

Despite the outcome against St. Louis on Monday, few would argue that the Hawks didn’t play like crap. Additionally with 13 of the team’s 23 goals thus far coming from Patrick Sharp or Marian Hossa, the rest of the lineup had better kick it into gear. Last-minute heroics and between-the-legs acrobatics works against lousy teams; good teams will kick us around like nerf footballs.

The Blackhawks’ defense is still a shambles, as evidenced by the fact that they have let in more goals than all but two teams in the league so far this season. That can’t continue, and we can’t continue to allow nearly 34 shots against per game either. Those two things go hand-in-hand, fellas. In case you’d forgotten.

The good news is, there’s plenty of room for improvement, and we’re leading our division already. This should be a fun one tonight, hard-fought and fast. Let’s hope we come out on the right end of it when the bullhorn sounds.

Odd start time of 8pm tonight, one has to assume that’s to accommodate the Canadian broadcasters. Locally it will be seen on Comcast SportsNet, catch it on broadcast radio WGN AM-720, and XM channel 206.

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When It’s Time For Leavin’ I Hope You’ll Understand

Photo: AP

The battle of wills appears to be over, and it ended with a wave.

In Monday night’s game against the Blues, Blackhawks’ goaltender and ramblin’ man “Myocardial Marty” Turco skated out of his net to field a puck at the left face-off dot. He stopped. He looked up ice. And he waved.

Some background for you who haven’t been following this closely. The word on Turco when the Blackhawks acquired him in the off-season was that he was a skilled puck-handler, able to deftly wander the defensive zone and become an additional mobile asset on breakouts. This, it was reported, would be particularly helpful on power plays and when opponents were trying to execute a line change. Or for beaning Mike Leggo in the melon when he misses calls so obvious that somebody standing outside the United Center and facing away from the arena could have seen them.

During pre-season we saw this in action: both the good, and the bad. In two separate games Turco wandered up-ice and fired a tape-to-tape saucer pass to our right winger on their blue line. Both of those plays ended with the puck behind their goaltender in the next five seconds. This was an incredible crowd-pleaser, and it showed the potential for Turco’s offensive capabilities.

But the down-side was when Turco would go on his fishing expeditions with opponents in our zone. Twice during pre-season Turco either mis-fired on a pass or was stripped of the puck, resulting in an open-net goal for the opposing team, and Turco himself diving frantically back towards the net looking like a leaping tree frog from a nature special on the National Geographic channel.

The TV broadcasters were even nice enough to use their super-slow-mo feature to show Turco, hanging in mid-air for what seemed like an eternity, all four limbs splayed in abject panic as the puck sails gently past him into the webbing. This was the other side of that double-edged sword Stan Bowman had bought at a discount.

So then, about a week ago there was a suggestion amongst the “legitimate” (ha-ha-ha) Blackhawks press corps that insinuated that perhaps there was the possibility that maybe Coach Joel Quenneville could potentially be growing tired of his number one goaltender making plays that made him look like the freshman goaltender on the St. Mary’s School for Girls JV team. This was whispered, few took note, and nothing more was said.

Then, last night, came the wave.

The wave was aimed at Brent Seabrook.

The wave said, “Come here and get this, I’m not passing it to you up there.” Which he did, and the play continued.

But what the wave really said was, “If I do what my instinct tells me to do, and things go badly with me 30 feet out of my net, Coach Q will have the trainers tape my wiener to my butt-crack, the long way, then make me skate side-boards with my skate laces tied together until Captain Serious believes I’ve learned my lesson.”

And thus, the battle of wills ended, with a wave.

I’m sure that we will see Marty Turco out of his net again, and I’m sure we will see him make bone-headed mistakes again. Every goalie does a few times a season. But I’m reasonably sure that the days of keeping a defibrillator charged and ready every time Turco is announced as the starter have come to an end.

(*sigh*) And I spent all that time thinking up a cool nickname for him…

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Shattered Dreams: A Sticky Situation

Pat Foley: “Welcome back to the action here at the United Center, ladies and gentlemen. Hawks down by one early in the third period, they’re fighting to get back in the game.”

Eddie Olczyk: “Hawks showing a lot of heart, they’re really turned up the gas here in the third.”

Foley: “Here’s Duncan Keith keeping it in, up the boards to Patrick Sharp… Holds there for a moment — now has Jonathan Toews racing towards the net, hits him with a pass, he SHOOTS!” OOOHHH and Toews’ stick shattered into a hundred pieces on that shot!”

Olczyk: “Great opportunity for Toews there, just couldn’t convert as the lumber cost him a scoring chance there, Pat.”

Foley: “Now the Hawks head back into the zone, Marian Hossa pulls up and waits, now hits Duncan Keith on the far point, the ONE TIMER: NO NOT AGAIN! Pieces of Keith’s stick wind up in the netting 75 feet above the ice surface.”

Olczyk: “Tough break for Duncs there Pat, he had the goaltender down and out, all he had to do was get that shot on net. But a broken twig stopped him cold.”

Foley: “Off the turnover, here’s Brent Seabrook now, gains the line, he’s got Davey Bolland with him, the pass across to Bolland— OH WHAT’S THIS! Bolland tries to field the pass, and his stick broke midway up the shaft!”

Olczyk: “Yeah, Pat, it looked like Bolland’s stick just crumpled like an aluminum can when he tried to catch that pass from Brent Seabrook.”

Foley: Now heading back to retrieve the dump-in all by himself is Niklas Hjalmarsson, he has plenty of time as he arrives to pick it — NO! Hjalmarsson’s stick exploded like a water balloon when he touched the puck with his stick!”

Olczyk: “I was talking to a rep from a stick manufacturer last week, Pat. They say they are putting new age materials in these sticks, they are so strong that an elephant can stand on one and it won’t snap.”

Foley: “All evidence to the contrary. Now ready for the face-off, Jake Dowell to take the draw, they’re ready and — GOOD GRAVY! Jake Dowell’s stick disintegrated as he began to take the draw! I don’t even think he touched the puck, did he Edzo?”

Olczyk: “Not at all, Pat. As we look at the replay, he set up for the draw, got his stick in position, now STOP IT RIGHT HERE! The referee still has the puck in his hands. As Jake Dowell gets a tighter grip on his stick, the shaft begins to fall apart like it’s made of sand. It was merely the added pressure he put on the stick when he gripped it that caused it to vaporize. All you young hockey players out there, if you’re dad is buying you these one-piece carbon sticks, you need to be on the lookout for this exact thing.”

Foley: “The Blackhawks, believe it or not, have not had a single shot on goal, but that’s not for a lack of trying. They have suffered, by my count, one hundred and thirty-one broken sticks! Trainer Mike Gapski is on the phone with the equipment manager who is in the car on the way to Total Hockey out in Schaumburg right now. Not sure he’s going to get back in time to save the Hawks tonight.”

Olczyk: “As a former player who was around before all of this one-piece composite business got started, Pat, I can tell you: there’s nothing like a good hunk of ash wrapped in fiberglass when it comes to scoring goals.”

Foley: “We’re waiting for them to clean up the debris as you look here at a picture of Patrick Kane, who as we heard this past week was a bit under the weather, in fact it looks like he’s got a bit of an itchy nose there on the bench.”

Olczyk: “Yeah, he’s asking the stick boy to hand him some tissues he has there on the — Holy Moly, Foley! Did you see that?”

Foley: “I sure did Eddie! Patrick Kane sneezed, and the stick he was holding in his other hand instantly turned to dust!”

Olczyk: “I have never seen anything like this before in my years playing, coaching and announcing the game of hockey. And look at that, the officials are now saying there’s too much debris on the ice, they can’t continue playing.”

Foley: “That will do it from here: the Hawks fall for the first time here at home, and as we sign off the United Center has asked us to inform you viewers that the Nickelback concert scheduled for tomorrow night has been postponed. Apparently the UC facilities personnel will be working around the clock to clean up the shrapnel caused by all the broken composite sticks during this game tonight.”

*     *     *     *     *

Major League Baseball only allows players to use bats made of wood. I’m now convinced they were on to something. This is getting fucking ridiculous.

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