Getting nervous for a regular season game that isn't against the Red Wings is a rare thing for me. I haven't been nervous like this in probably two years.
The last regular season game that made me genuinely nervous was in March 2009 when the Vancouver Canucks rolled in as the Hawks were doing their best to biff away the fourth seed. The Canucks crushed us that night, 4-0, and the game gave way to the infamous line brawl that started all this silliness between the two teams. But that's nothing like what's coming this weekend. There's much more on the line now.
The Hawks have to endure two games, and probably in regulation. A 4-2 road trip will look much better than a 3-3 one, and 2-4 will spell disaster. And they have to do it on back-to-back nights, finishing out in Phoenix against a team and a stadium they never play well against or in. It all makes for total itchiness. They start with a desperate team tonight.
If the Hawks can pull off this Southwest two-step, the schedule is opening up for them. They'll return home for three games against the surprising Wild, the awful Blue Jackets and a Penguins team that's missing Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and couldn't score their way out of a paper bag. They'll finish that out with a trip down to the moribound Blues. If the Hawks can get all systems firing tonight, the robust streak of hockey we've been lighting candles and sacrificing goats in hopes of receiving could be here. But we've waited for that all season ...
Two big stories tonight. First, Marty Turco will get the start in his return to Dallas. I've seen some fans complaining about this, but I have no idea why. Turks always was going to start one of these two games, so why not the one we know he's slobbering from every facial orifice for?
Second will be the debut of Michael Frolik. I want to believe he'll start at center between Marian Hossa (if he's even over his flu) and Troy Brouwer, and Tomas Kopecky will be off my Top 6. But that won't happen, and I bet the more likely scenario is he's on Kopecky's and Hossa's wing with Brouwer dumping either Bickell or Pisani down to the fourth line (likely Bickell). Most likely Hossa doesn't play, and he'll be on a line with Kopecky and Brouwer. No chance Quenneville breaks up Sharp-Toews-Kane just yet.
Though the Dallas power play is struggling, the Hawks must stay out of the box tonight. They've been murdered by the Dallas power play in both games against them this year. But past that, there isn't much special they have to do tonight to get the two points other than skate hard. They've bullied the Dallas defense into submission both times, and Kari Lehtonen is starting to buckle under the pressure of carrying this team. The Hawks will have an inspired goalie in their net as well. They must play with more zest than they did against Edmonton, but I think they will. Hopefully, the easing of our pain begins tonight.