7:00 United Center, Chicago, IL
TV: Comcast Sports Net Chicago
Radio: 720 AM WGN
The Blackhawks get a chance to get back on track against one of the few teams struggling more than they are as the Toronto Maple Leafs come calling tonight. The Leafs are in a miserable 1-8-1 stretch their last 10 games. Things seem to be falling apart in Toronto after going 0-3-1 on their last 4 game home stand. They lost to Florida 5-3 last night in a game where the first two Panthers shots went in.
The Leafs have All Stars Phil Kessel (32 G, 35 A) and Jeffery Lupul (24 G, 40A) on their top line, but there isn’t much after that. Sure there is Mikail Grabovsky with 18 goals and 23 assists on the 2nd line, but the drop off after him is pretty significant. The Leafs are not getting any secondary scoring and their goaltending is a mess. The Hawks will draw Jonas Gustavvson tonight who is 16-12-2 with a 2.89 GAA and a .905 save percentage. Those numbers are very close to the Hawks starting goalie Corey Crawford so expect a few goals tonight.
Tonight’s game will feature the 27th (Hawks) and 29th (Leafs) ranked penalty kills in the league. The Leafs have the 10th best power play converting on 19.1% of their chances so the Hawks will need to stay out of the box. If the Blackhawks can use their speed to draw some penalties, the Leafs PK just might be bad enough to get a couple goals.
The Blackhawks will play their first game in the post John Scott era (who will protect our players now?). Newest Blackhawk Johnny Oduya will make his Chicago debut tonight. He has been paired with Brent Seabrook the last two days in practice. The Blackhawks will be without Jonathan Toews, Niklas Hjalmarrson and Kim, I mean Steve Montador. Hjammer skated in practice today so he might be ready to go by the weekend. Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa were absent from the morning skate as well. Both were most likely just using a maintenance day. Andrew Shaw is back up with the big club and so is fellow IceHogs alum Brandon Bollig. The Hawks will definitely have more of an edge with those two on the ice.
Both teams are in desperation mode right now. The Leafs are now 4 points behind the Washington Capitals for the 8th seed the Eastern Conference. The Blackhawks have fallen to 7th in the Western Conference and are just 3 points ahead of the 9th seed. Both teams need these 2 points. Who is hungrier? It better damn well be the Blackhawks!