No place like home: Blackhawks December Preview

Hopefully the United Center cleaning crew got all that elephant shit picked up, because hockey is on its way back to the UC — a lot of hockey.

The Blackhawks finished the annual circus trip 4-1-1 and earned nine of 12 possible points. It seemed a lot worse after ending the trip with 3-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks and falling in a pissing contest to the Los Angeles Kings. But the drubbing of San Jose and the sweep through Canada can’t be ignored by any means.

The ‘Hawks come into December 16-6-3 overall and their 35 points are tied with the Calgary Flames for second in the Western Conference, three points back of San Jose. They also have a four-point lead on second-place Nashville in the Central. With 10 of 15 December games played at the United Center — including five straight smack in the middle of the month — the mission should be clear: Pull away from the pack.

That, of course, will be easier said than done. Though 66 percent of the month’s games are played at home, the schedule is a tough gauntlet of division rivals and top Eastern Conference foes. The 12 December opponents boast an average of 30.7 points. That amount of points would be good for fourth in the East and eighth in the West, meaning the ‘Hawks will be facing a playoff contender each night throughout the month.

The Blackhawks open the month Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, then face Nashville in the first of three meetings in the month Friday. After that, it’s a nice dose of the East with Sidney Crosby and the Penguins in Pittsburgh, the New York Rangers at the UC then Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres in Patrick Kane’s neck of the woods.

The five-game homestand that follows doesn’t get much easier: Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Boston, Detroit and San Jose. Getting seven points out of that would be a hell of a success in my opinion before the ‘Hawks head out of town to face the Communists and Predators in a home-and-home in Central showdowns.

After a rendezvous with Dallas, the ‘Hawks get to pucker up for Martin Broduer and the New Jersey Devils on New Year’s Eve.

Take a look at the standings — this shit won’t be easy. Marian Hossa is still getting back to form, Jonathan Toews has 10 points in his last 10 games and Kaner is, well, Kaner. Cristobal Huet is fourth in the NHL with a 2.12 GAA. We’re going to need all that, plus the rest of the healthy Blackhawks stepping up to get through this schedule.

Out of 30 possible points, I’m gunning for 21 — 10-4-1. That would put the Blackhawks at 56 points heading into the new year. Last season, the ‘Hawks had 47 on Jan. 1.

However, it’s the old sports cliche: Take it one game at a time. Tuesday, it’s Columbus. I hate Rick Nash.

A couple of notes:

  • Forklift over at Hockee Night put together a list of trade possibilities for the Blackhawks to clear some cap space, complete with player salaries and UFA status. You’re a lesser fan if you don’t read it.

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