Nov 27, 2013; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Kris Versteeg (23) tries to score in front of Calgary Flames goalie Reto Berra (29) during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Chicago Blackhawks won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Blackhawks have been struggling, as of late, and to make matters worse, they have been kicked out of their own house, by Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Tonight’s game, against the Calgary Flames, will be the 1st of a what looks to be a 7-game road trip, due to the fact that Disney on Ice will be taking over the United Center, for the time being. The Blackhawks will not play at home again, until the March 1st Stadium Series game, at Soldier Field, against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
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Statistically, the Blackhawks have an enormous advantage, in this game. Having said that, the Hawks also had a huge advantage, over the Winnipeg Jets, and the Hawks ended up losing. The Flames are near the bottom, of the NHL, in just about every category while, the Hawks are consistently near the top, in several categories.
The Flames are currently, near the bottom, in 6th place, of the Pacific Division. The have gone a dismal 3-6-1, in their last 10 games, but have won their previous 2.
Calgary is lead, in points, by Jiri Hudler. After Hudler, there is a big gap between the 2nd ranked player, in points. Next up would be defenseman Mark Giordano, one of the Flames’ more consistent players. Mike Cammalleri would be Calgary’s biggest scoring threat, but he is on injured reserve, due to a concussion. 2013 1st round draft pick, Sean Monahan, has the unenviable task of developing his game, on a struggling team, but has shown some bright spots, and is a big scoring threat, to opposing teams.
In net, figures to be either Karri Ramo or Reto Berra. Both have struggled, this season, but Ramo has been able to salvage at least a .903 save percentage, while Berra hasn’t quite fared as well, in his rookie season. Berra, though, stole a victory, with a .932 save percentage, in his NHL debut, on November 27th, against the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks have struggled a bit lately, but are luckily still holding onto 1st place, in the Central Division, by one point, over the 2nd place St. Louis Blues. However, the Blues have played in 3 fewer games, than the Blackhawks.
The Hawks may come out with a different look tonight, as Brandon Pirri has been called up, from the Rockford IceHogs, of the AHL. If we are to use the morning skate as any sort of an indicator, Pirri will be centering the 2nd line, with Patrick Kane and Kris Versteeg as his wingers. That could be a huge scoring line, to go along with the top line of Jonathan Toews centering Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. Don’t count out the 3rd line of Andrew Shaw centering Bryan Bickell and Brandon Saad. It will be interesting to see how Bickell responds to being a healthy scratch, in the previous game, against Winnipeg.
Also, remember, the Hawks’ 4th line has been the most productive line, lately, so, these new line matchups have the potential to bring some slump busting excitement.
In net will likely be Corey Crawford, who will be looking to rebound after arguably his most disappointing game, of the season, against the Jets. Crawford, though has played well, this season, especially after returning from injury. He is clearly a big reason why the Hawks are still in 1st place, in the Central Division.
One team is an elite team looking to get back to it’s usual dominant ways, just in time, as it heads out on a difficult road trip. The other team is a struggling, young team, in the midst of what looks to be a lengthy rebuild. A win over an NHL elite, and defending Stanley Cup Champion, would make the help ease the pain of the rebuild. It should be a good game!