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GIMME, GIMME, GIMME THE HONKEY TONK BLUES: The incomparable On The Forecheck
There’s only one storyline for the Hawks tonight, and obviously it’s KRS-23 suiting up in his first game back with the Hawks. If there was any danger of the Hawks either not taking this one fully seriously or getting caught looking ahead to the Sharks tomorrow night, there should be an extra jump in everyone’s step with Versteeg joining the ranks. As you know by now, Steeger will skate on the 3rd line with Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw. The combination of Chicken Hawk and VerStud might give the Hawks the yappiest line they’ve iced in… forever?
It has not been the kindest of starts for our friends in Music City. They are rooted to the bottom of the Central Division at 8-9-2. The problems? They can’t fucking score, and they can’t stop the puck. Being a hockey expert, I can tell you that’s a nasty combination.
The scoring problems are nothing new for the Preds, who haven’t been prolific in a long time. But they only have two players over 10 points, and only one who has scored five goals (Hornqvist). Some players they counted on to help out have done nothing like it. As you may have heard, Viktor Stalberg had such a debut with the Preds that he’s found himself a healthy scratch a couple times. Matt Cullen has been old, because he’s old. Filip Forsberg got demoted, but has been recalled in time for tonight’s game.
They’re not totally bereft of skill, however. David Legwand can always be counted on for an annoying, ugly goal against the Hawks because he’s annoying and ugly. Colin Wilson is back from an injury-ravaged season last year to be a boost. Craig Smith looks to have shaken off some of the cobwebs of a woeful 2013 season to at least not be a blister.
The real strength of the Preds is on the blue line, with American hero Seth Jones backing up longtime ass-kicker Shea Weber. This will be the Hawks first look at Jones (I’m sure Brandon Saad is very excited to see what he’ll be dealing with for the next decade), and though I’ve only caught a couple Preds games this year you’ll be impressed with a guy that big who skates that well. There have been bumps for Jones as there always would be and he hasn’t seen to many attacks like the one he’s being asked to repel tonight. Mattias Ekholm is another young blue-liner who’s been good, however Roman Josi and Kevin Klein have taken huge steps back.
But it all comes crumbling down straight to hell in net for Nashville. Pekka Rinne is on the shelf for a while with a hip problem, and Carter Hutton couldn’t, or at least hasn’t, been able to fill in the gaps. Marek Mazanec (it’s a name not a condition) got lit up in Pittsburgh last night, as he has in his other appearances. It’s Hutton to get the start tonight, and though he might have some extra motivation against the organization that didn’t have a place for him, you still can’t see a way that he’s not really up against it.
I don’t need to tell you the method for the Hawks tonight, but I have to wrap this post up somehow. The Preds can’t generate any offense on their own, so as long as you’re clean in your zone and the neutral zone, you’ve pretty much locked them up. No cutesy-fancy stuff… ok, Steeger gets to try one thing for old time’s sake, because it’s not watching Kris Versteeg unless you’re yelling at him for a minute. Use the middle of the ice in the Hawks’ zone to get out, because the Preds love to pinch down on the guys on the boards and the points. From there it’s fire at will, because Hutton has been that shaky.
The Preds tried a Keep The Red Out campaign, I bet when I turn my TV on tonight it won’t look like they succeeded.