Chicago Blackhawks players Brent Seabrook (7) Patrick Sharp, second from left, Daniel Carcillo second from right, and Patrick Kane (88) surround Duncan Keith (obscured) while celebrating after Keith scored a goal against the Calgary Flames in the first period during an NHL hockey game in Chicago, Friday, Nov.11, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
More: That's the theme for tonight.
Can the Hawks provide more of the defensive stability, penalty killing, and overall display of manhood that we saw in St. Louis? That's topped with more of the Phoenix Coyotes, who in a brilliant bit of NHL scheduling return to the West Side for the second time in six days. Quite frankly, we'd had enough of them after the last time they were here.
There won't be any lineup changes for the Hawks, other than Corey Crawford resuming his normal spot between the two red posts. The margin for error is getting smaller for Crow, because after Ray Emery's strong performance, and the improved effort in front of him, in Missouri any further slip up will see Razor getting more starts than had been projected. While the Hawks need Crawford to work out his yips, and he can only really do that in games, they need points too. If Emery is more likely to get them at this stage, then that's the way the Hawks will go. It's not a long term solution, but temporary ones can be the difference between division and conference crowns and not having home ice in the first round. But if the Hawks play in front of Crow the way they did on Saturday night, there really shouldn't be any problems.
Whatever you need to know about Phoenix you can go back and read the preview from last Tuesday. Since that little dust-up, the Coyotes have lost two games. They were shut out in Winnipeg, and then flattened by the Flyers at home on Saturday, giving up four first period goals. Because of that, look for them to be especially tight in the first period tonight, not wanting to fall behind which they are specifically built to avoid.
The big thing for the Hawks is patience and discipline. Not discipline in the sense of taking penalties, but the Hawks are going to have to stick to the script. That means they can't try and carry the puck into the Coyotes zone, because they won't be allowed. They can't also just simply dump the puck around the boards and try to chase it, because goalie Mike Smith is so adept at handling the puck he'll stop it, distribute it, and everything will head the other way. This is what happened repeatedly last time, causing the Hawks to never get a forecheck going, never create turnovers, never get on the body, and that's what helped it look more listless than it may actually have been. The prescription are soft chips that stay on the wall along the wings, or rifling it cross-corner to keep it from going behind the net where Smith can get at it. This makes the Coyote d-men play it, and they only have a couple who can do so consistently without getting hurt.
The win against the Blues won't mean much if it isn't backed up with another solid performance. We'd all like to see the Hawks get on a bit of a roll, and there's another date with the Isles waiting after this before tangos with the Sharks and Wild await. Make mine a double.
Sam Fels is the proprietor of The Committed Indian, an unofficial program for the Blackhawks. You may have seen him hocking the magazine outside the United Center at Gate 3. The program is also available for purchase online. Fels is a lifelong 'Hawks fan and he also writes for Second City Hockey .