FACEOFF: 9pm Central
TV/RADIO: NBCSN, Comcast, WGN Radio 720
ACME’S FAVORITE CUSTOMER: Five For Howling
Turn it right around. That’s how this season is going to go. Any gleam from a win is going to be quickly washed away with the flow of another game right on its tail. So it is as the Hawks return to the Valley Of The Sun/Invisible Owner to face the Coyotes in their home opener tonight.
A lot of the narrative will be about a rematch of last year’s playoff series, Raffi Torres not playing and Marian Hossa playing, Mike Smith, Corey Crawford, etc. But with the urgency now spiced to taste in every game this year thanks to there being only 48 of them, no one should pay too much attention to it. It’s a game on the schedule you need to win, no more no less.
There are a couple lineup changes. Ray Emery will get the start. Phoenix is well-coached but low-skilled, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can get Razor moving side to side like they will assuredly be drilled in the pregame.
Secondly, with Daniel Carcillo injuring himself yesterday — though not while trying to end someone’s career so we’ll call it progress — Brandon Saad will slide in to the top line with Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews. I’m considering this in the Q-Falling-Upwards category, as this should have been the look the moment they decided Saad was going to make the team out of practice last week. While Saad isn’t going to remind anyone of vintage Rick Tocchet tonight, he will make some plays and will physically make an impact. You couldn’t ask for a sweeter spot as a rookie than riding in the sidecar of the Tazer-Hosbollah motorcycle.
Phoenix kicked off their year last night in Dallas, and bit it 4-3 as Jaromir Jagr put up four points before he fades out of sight when it really matters. It’s a pretty familiar cast down there in Glendale, the only change on the blue line was Rozsival coming here and Zybnek Michalek heading back to the desert after Pittsburgh decided they didn’t want to play defense at all. Up front David Moss and Matthew Lombardi are in, and Ray Whitney is chewing mush with Jagr in Dallas and reminiscing about what it was like to live in a Hoover-ville.
Haven’t seen if Mike Smith will start again or if Jason Labarbera (McGilla…Gorilla…) will go. Will update in the comments.
You know the drill with a Dave Tippett team. They’re going to put the puck behind the Hawks defense and try and make them navigate through landmines and log traps and the like. They’ll jam the Hawks along the boards as they did all of last spring. Once again, and I go hoarse saying this, the Hawks can’t ignore the middle of the ice when trying to get out of their zone. Yes, it can be dangerous, but when the outside is so heavily plugged, there’s little choice.
If they can get break cleanly through the middle, then Phoenix can’t clog the neutral zone as well and the Hawks can get at this Yotes D with speed. And it’s not the quickest blue line either. This is where Saad’s greater speed on the forecheck could also shine through, and why Stalberg and Bickell should also be effective.
Ruined one party yesterday. Why not another?