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Blackhawks @ Canes Game Preview

January 30, 2010

Game Time: 6:00 PM CST
TV/Radio: WGN / WGN (720-AM)
Know Thy Enemy: Canes Country

Stat Pack:

Blackhawks Hurricanes
L10
6-3-1 6-4-0
Record on the Road: 16-8-3 at Home: 12-12-3
PP% 21.0% (6th) 18.1% (T-16th)
PK 85.3% (4th) 79.4% (25th)

Today, we’re going to put ourselves into the shoes of the seldom-faced Carolina Hurricanes.  Their fan base must be made up of a bunch of masochists.  On top of constantly dealing with the “You’re south of the Mason-Dixon line so you can’t know how to play hockey” argument, they have experienced extreme highs and lows in Carolina.

To summarize:

2002: Lost Stanley Cup Finals to Red Wings (4-1)

2003: 15th in East

2004: 11th in East

Lockout

2006: Stanley Cup Champs

2007: 11th in East

2008: 9th in East

2009: Eastern Conference Finals loss to Penguins (4-0)

It doesn’t take any advanced calculus to figure out where they are this year.  After having a great postseason run last spring, the Canes are sitting dead last in a pretty weak Eastern Conference.  Their team has, like we saw in Edmonton, been decimated by injuries.  They’re 3rd in man games lost to injury.  Cam Ward missed significant time after a freak accident with a skate.  Injuries to your starting goalie are never good, and it doesn’t help when that goalie carried your team to the Conference Finals the year before.

They hit a rough stretch in November and lost a whole mess of games.  That pretty much put out any hopes they had of making the playoffs.  It’ll take about 24 wins in their last 28 games to squeeze into the 8th spot with 88 points.  But something funny has been happening lately.  The Canes are winning games.  4 of their last 5 to be exact, including back to backs against the Rangers and Islanders this week.  This really didn’t help all the psychological issues of their fans.  Sure, they want to win, but will winning hurt them in the long run?  Every point they get makes it that much more difficult to draft Taylor Hall.  Canes Country has been breaking down the recent stretch and how they’ve done it. Answer: “Even when figured with the four losses, Ward’s save percentage is .938 in the last 10.”

Eric Staal will be their best weapon tonight.  He leads the team in points, despite missing 12 games this year.  The Canes gave him the “C” last week too.  Rod Brind’amour (captain of the all-ugly team) moved back in to an alternate role, but that old guy can lead no matter what letter is on his chest.  Another guy to watch is Sergei Samsonov.  You may remember Samsonov from his terrible play in Chicago for a short stretch of time.  Well, now he’s in Carolina and he figured out how to score goals.  He’s had 3 in the 6 games since coming back from injury.

For the Hawks, how about the Brouwer guy???  He had an awesome game against the Sharks and has really been the most improved player since last year.  I used to cringe every time he was even near the puck.  Now, his hands are better, he’s creating space with that huge head he’s got, and he’s putting pucks in the net.

I don’t think we’ll be seeing Bolland’s return tonight.  Probably would have heard about it by now.  But that’s really okay.  Taking all the time he needs is what will help this team play deal into the playoffs.

Huet is back between the pipes tonight.  He was awesome against the Sharks, withstanding some heavy barrages when the Sharks decided they like controlling the puck.  2 of the 3 goals he gave up were through screens, one of which deflected of Hossa’s skate for a flukey score.  We’ll see how he does tonight when he likely won’t face many shots.

The Hawks have the ability to blow this team out of the water, but I’m not sure if we’ll see that happen.  The end of a long road trip against a team at the bottom of the standings just screams “trap game.”  If the Hawks come out flying, they’ll be able to do some damage and just run away with this one.  One guy I’d like to see more of is Sharp.  He’s been very quiet lately, but tonight has the potential to be a breakout night for just about everyone on the roster.

Let’s Go Hawks

Note: The game recap probably won’t make it up until tomorrow. ChiBlackhawks is in Carolina for the game tonight and I’m going to have to record the last 2 periods because of some stuff I have going on here at school tonight.  I’m really just hoping we can lock this one up early and I can follow tweets for my info.

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