Blackhawks News

As If We Didn’t Have Enough Snow Already: Double Dose of Avalanche

By Tim Currell

As Chicago finishes digging out from the fluffy white present Old Man Winter dumped on us over the weekend, the Blackhawks arrive in Denver for the first of a home-and-home series with the Colorado Avalanche culminating on Wednesday at the United Center. The first meeting between these two clubs was also in Denver for the season opener, when the Hawks fought back from a 3 – 1 deficit but still managed to come away with a 4 – 3 overtime loss.

A harbinger of the season to come, it would seem.

Tonight the Blackhawks come into the Pepsi Center fresh off of a similar overtime loss in San Jose, the first loss for Corey Crawford in eight starts, and a game they played well enough to win.  They will see a Colorado team on a two-game winning streak, but with a 4 – 4 – 2 record in the last 10 games. They are mired in a tie with four other teams occupying the fifth through ninth spots in the Western Conference, just a point behind Chicago, and a point ahead of twelfth-place St. Louis.

The Avalanche boast a very balanced scoring attack, with eleven players notching five or more goals so far this season. Goaltending is also stable, though not outstanding, with former Blackhawks draft pick Craig Anders(s)on taking the majority of the starts of late.

The defensive corps is led by Adam Foote — who has missed nearly half this young season with a concussion and a knee injury — and John-Michael Liles, who is lighting it up with 26 points and a +12 rating. One of their more experienced defensemen, Scott Hannan, was just dealt to the Washington Capitals in exchange for young center Tomas Fleischmann. So with luck we will be able to take advantage of a weakened blue line this evening.

But Foote’s injuries have been just the tip of the iceberg, as the injury bug has hit many of the top producers for Colorado. Team leading scorer Milan Hejduk is currently day-to-day with a groin injury; right wing Chris Stewart and his 25 points are out indefinitely with a broken hand; defenseman Kyle Cumisky is another concussion victim, no timetable is set for his return. Those are the highlights.

This helps to balance out the injuries on the Blackhawks’ roster somewhat, though it would be silly to suggest that any combination of players on the Avs’ roster would compare to Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa. But both teams are trying to make do with the fill-ins and keep their heads above water until their stars return.

The Blackhawks’ fill-ins are starting to look more like regular top-six forwards as the games progress. Call-up Jeremy Morin had another solid outing against San Jose, showing off his defensive hustle as well as his drive for the net as he spent another night on the wing for Patrick Sharp. Jack Skille got himself a promotion to the top line with Jonathan Toews and Viktor Stalberg, and provided some evidence to support those who argued in favor of keeping him with the big club after training camp.

And of all people, coming back to the roster after an absence of more than a month, defenseman-turned-erstwhile-winger Jordan Hendry netted his first goal of the season on Saturday with some grit, some hustle and some smarts in slipping the puck past Antti Niemi late in the first period. If the Blackhawks can continue to get out-of-nowhere contributions from the rank and file on a consistent basis, we might just get through this unfortunate spate of injuries little the worse for wear.

Now, those of you who know me have heard how much I bad-mouth Nick Boynton and his seemingly unstoppable habit of making bone-headed plays in the defensive zone. The NHL doesn’t keep a stat for “bone-headed plays”, but they do keep many others, and I decided to take a look to see just how awful Mr. Boynton is. I was surprised to see, not that awful.

Boynton has no goals and only six assists in 29 games, and his plus-minus is flat. But he is second among defensemen in hits, third (and only one away from second) in blocked shots, and a distant fourth in giveaways, despite what appears to be ample video evidence to the contrary.

So I’m a big enough man to admit when I’m wrong, and I’ll lay off Boynton for a while. Let’s say he has until one of his passes in front of our net ends up inside of our net: then I’ll be right back to saying he stinks worse than Kirstie Alley’s butt cheese.

Administrative nonsense: Marty Turco gets the start in goal tonight; Marian Hossa is a possibility of starting skating this afternoon here in Chicago, and Patrick Kane is rumored to be close to that point also.

And the Blackhawks recalled milquetoast utility forward Ryan Potulny from Rockford this morning, but the reason wasn’t apparent until the morning skate in Denver. Center Dave Bolland was absent from practice, and it was announced afterwards that he will sit tonight’s game with an upper-body injury. This moves Jake Dowell up to the third line with Bryan Bickell and Troy Brouwer, leaving Potulny to center Hendry and John Scott on the fourth — possibly the worst line the Blackhawks have sent out since Igor Korolev, Travis Moen and Ryan Vandenbussche.

And by the way, today’s high temperature in Denver is 65 degrees. Rat bastards…

Puck drops at an unusual 8:00pm Chicago time. TV is Comcast SportsNet, broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers turn the dial to channel 208.

Follow @blackhawksup and on Facebook
Download Blackhawk Up’s FREE iPhone and Droid apps
Visit FanSided’s NHL page, Too Many Men on the Site