Game Preview: New-Look Chicago Blackhawks Set to Host Carolina Hurricanes

By Brian Kinkade

October 15, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; Chicago Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews (19) carries the puck past Carolina Hurricanes left wing Jeff Skinner (53) at PNC Center. The Blackhawks defeated the Hurricanes 3-2 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks team that was shutout by the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday is no more.  That’s probably a bit on the dramatic side, but the sentiment is true.  With the additions of Kimmo Timonen and Antoine Vermettethe Hawks are feeling new and should legitimately be improved across the board as they take on the lowly Carolina Hurricanes, tonight at the United Center.

This will be the first game of the 2-game season series between the Hawks and Hurricanes.  Puck drop is set for 7:30 PM Central Time.  Tonight’s game can be seen on CSN-Chicago and can be heard on WGN 720 AM.

Here’s a statistical breakdown of the Hawks and Hurricanes.

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Offensively, the Hawks are technically only slightly above average.  Even without Patrick Kane, the Hawks need to be better offensively.  Tonight, they will be up against a slightly above average Carolina defense.

Defensively, the Hawks are an elite team and tonight they will face a ‘Canes offensive attack that is one of the most disappointing in the league.

On the Power Play, the Hawks are slightly below average and tonight they will be up against Carolina’s Penalty Kill which is the best in the league.

For the Hawks, the Penalty Kill is elite but has fallen off a bit recently.  Tonight they will be tasked with shutting down a Hurricanes Power Play that has been great this season.

In the faceoff circle, the Hawks have been great and tonight they will be taking draws against a ‘Canes squad that has been slightly better.

In terms of puck-possession, the Hawks fall into the elite category and tonight they will be fighting for the puck against a Carolina team that is sub-par at possessing the puck.

On paper, the advantage goes to the Hawks.  However, the Hurricanes certainly have some areas where they can make this a very interesting game.  It will be interesting to see how the Hawks perform with the additions of Vermette and Timonen.

In all likelihood, the Hawks numbers will be improved across the board.  Vermette is a faceoff wizard, which that combined with his other skills will help improve: faceoff percentage, SAT Percentage, goals against, and goals for.  He is also an effective penalty killer and power play forward, so he should literally help improve every single listed category for the Hawks.  Timonen will help move the puck and play sound defense, so he will improve SAT Percentage, goals against and goals for.  Again, this is if everything goes according to plan.  It should be interesting and it should be fun.

The Hurricanes are 24-30-7 with 55 points, which is good for last place in the Metropolitan Division and far from playoff contention.  However, the ‘Canes have won 3 games in a row in which 2 of those opponents(Washington Capitals and New York Islanders) are Eastern Conference contenders.

Defenseman Justin Faulk leads Carolina in points and has 12 goals on the season.  Right behind Faulk is captain, longtime ‘Cane, former 100-point scorer and Stanley Cup champ for the ‘Canes, Eric Staal.  Young star, Jeff Skinner has recorded 1 point in each of his last 4 games.  Centerman Jay McClement has 3 goals during the ‘Canes’ current 3-game winning streak.

Starting in net for Carolina will likely be Cam Ward.  Ward, a former Cup winner for the Hurricanes is having a so-so season with a .913 Save Percentage in 40 games played.

The Hawks are 37-21-5 with 79 points, which is good for 3rd place in the Central Division.  They are currently 6 points behind the 2nd place and likely 1st round of the playoffs opponent, the St. Louis Blues.

Of course, the main attraction tonight will be seeing new acquisitions Kimmo Timonen and Antoine Vermette making their Hawks debuts.  Timonen will likely skate on the 2nd d-pairing with Brent Seabrook.  Vermette will center the 2nd line with Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad as his wings.  This could all change a bit, as Marian Hossa was given an opportunity to rest during the morning skate.  With Vermette on the 2nd line, Brad Richards will now be centering the 3rd line with Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell on his wings.

Starting in net for the Hawks will be Corey Crawford.  Crawford recorded a shutout of the Florida Panthers in his previous start and should be well-rested and ready for the Hurricanes.

It should be an exciting night, with the debuts of the new Hawks.  However, give them time to adapt to their new teammates and new team in general.  There will be plenty of time for them to adjust and be performing at their best for the Hawks during the playoffs.  However, it’s a tricky Carolina tonight and the Hawks can still get the home-ice advantage in the 1st round of the playoffs.

Go Hawks!