Game Preview: Chicago Blackhawks Look to Continue Winning Ways Against Carolina Hurricanes


October 15, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp (10) score the game winner in the shootout past the Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward (30) at PNC Center. The Blackhawks defeated the Hurricanes 3-2 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

After defeating the 1st place St. Louis Blues, the Chicago Blackhawks have the chance to ride the momentum of the big win, to grab a strong hold on 2nd place, in the Central Division, keeping the Colorado Avalanche in 3rd place.  In order to do this, the Blackhawks cannot look past their next opponent, the Carolina Hurricanes, who are team that can surprise and frustrate.

Let’s see how the Blackhawks and Hurricanes matchup against each other.

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As usual, the Blackhawks hold a big advantage.  The Hawks are the top offensive team, in the NHL, while the Hurricanes are in the bottom 3rd, of the league.  The Blackhawks have moved into the top-10, in Goals Against Average, while the Hurricanes are in the NHL’s lower half.  The Power Plays, of the Hawks and Hurricanes, couldn’t be more different, as the Hawks sport the league’s 3rd best unit, and the Hurricanes have the 2nd worst, Power Play, in the NHL.  Although, the Hawks’ Power Play will be without some major fire power, due to the injury of Patrick Kane.  Carolina’s Penalty Kill is ranked slightly higher than the Hawks improving man-disadvantage unit.

Interestingly, the ‘Canes are in the top-5, in Faceoff Winning Percentage, although that’s largely due to the Staal brothers.  Jordan Staal has won a ridiculous 54.8% of his faceoffs, and his brother, Eric Staalhas won a very good 52.1%, of his faceoffs.  When it comes to Puck Possession, the Hurricanes fall off, as they are ranked 20th, in Corsi For Percentage.

The Hurricanes are currently 7th place, in the Atlantic Division, and are 9 points out of a playoff spot, in both the division and the wild card.  It’s not impossible that for them to make a run, to the playoffs, but the fact that they’d have to leap-frog several teams, to make it, makes it very unlikely.

Eric Staalthe longest tenured Hurricane, leads the team, in points, this season, although he has been largely inconsistent, this season, at least by his standards.  Eric Staal is not the only elite scorer, however, Jeff Skinnerhas elite scoring ability, when healthy, and is always dangerous, when he’s on the ice.  When Alexander Semin signed with Carolina, the thought was that he would provide great offense, but so far, he has disappointed, as he has been injured, and inconsistent, with the Hurricanes.  Eric’s brother, Jordan Staalhas, won a great deal of faceoffs, this season, but has struggled to find the back of the net.

Usually, when playing the Hurricanes, you’d expect to see former Stanley Cup winning goaltender, Cam Wardbut like many of the skaters, Ward has been injured and inconsistent.  Filling in has been Anton Khudobin, who has been excellent, this season, with a .928 Save Percentage, in 27 games played.

The Blackhawks currently have a slim, 1-point lead, over Colorado, for 2nd place, in the Central Division.  Since the Hawks are 6 points behind the Blues, who also have a game in-hand, on the Hawks, the most realistic goal, for the Hawks would be to hold on to 2nd place.

The Hawks’ lineup will look very different, tonight.  Although he’s in Chicago, Teuvo TeravainenWILL NOT be playing, tonight.  Due to the injury, to Kane, the Hawks have called up Jeremy Morinwho has been having a fantastic season, in Rockford, of the AHL.  Also, apparently out, for tonight’s game, will be Michal Rozsival and Bryan Bickell, as they were not present, at the team’s morning skate.

With all the temporary cosmetic changes, to the roster, Jonathan Toews will skate with Marian Hossa and Kris Versteeg, on his wing.  The 2nd line, centered by Michal Handzuswill have Patrick Sharp and Andrew Shaw playing the wings.  Ben Smithwho has been playing very well, lately, will center the 3rd line, with Peter Regin and Morin.  Marcus Kruger remains centering the 4th line, with Brandon Bolligand defenseman, Sheldon Brookbank, as his wings.

This is all according to the morning skate, and is subject to change.  Knowing Joel Quenneville’s tendencies, this will likely change, throughout the game.

In net, will be Corey Crawford, who is coming off his 2nd shutout, of the season.  Crawford has had a very good season, and has been playing great lately.  This season, Crawford has a .919 Save Percentage.

Lots of changes, temporary, but still lots of changes, to the Hawks roster.  We all know there will be at least one more, in the next couple of games, when Teravainen makes his NHL debut.  For now, though, the Hawks will have to make due with this temporarily tweaked roster, and hope it’s good enough to get 2 points, against the Hurricanes.

Go Hawks!