Hawks Face Blue Jackets Saturday

Jay LaPrete, AP

Sometimes the NHL schedule does you a favor, like Saturday when the Hawks get an immediate chance to make amends for wasting our and their time the night before in Carolina. And they get to do it against the league's worst team at home.

You can't ask for a curveball that's hanging more than this.

Columbus has had a woeful start to the season. They're 1-8-1. They can't score, they can't stop goals, their power play is just about as bad as the Hawks', and their penalty kill is something the Annoyance Theater wishes it could put on.

The team has given up 12 goals in just 34 attempts to kill off a penalty. If the Hawks can't manage a goal against this outfit, then the problems will be a lot deeper than ones that are solved with a smattering of caulk and a couple traps here and there.

It's been especially disheartening for Jackets fans, because this was the rare season they came in with some hope. Columbus made some big splashes in the summer. They signed former Hawks defenseman James Wisniewski to a contract that might go down as the ninth wonder of the world. They traded for Flyers center Jeff Carter. While Carter would be an odd-fit for winger Rick Nash, the team's unquestioned star, he does at least bring top-level offensive talent to Ohio. And the Jackets have been short on that for their entire existence.

But nothing's worked. Wisniewski got himself suspended for the season's first eight games with a hit to the head in the preseason. Carter is currently hurt. And no one else is doing much of anything.

Now the team is starting to panic on the ice and behind the bench. They're shooting from everywhere, rarely when it's a good idea. They're shortening their bench and tiring players out. The coaches have tried everything, and they must know that the knives is dropping closer and closer to their head.

The Hawks can be sure they'll see a desperate team. They can also be sure they'll see a physical one. The Jackets do lead the league in hits. They'll spend all night putting the puck behind the Hawks D, and then trying to atom-smash them beneath the goal line to cause turnovers and get the puck out to their point men. From their, Columbus just tries to get the puck on net as quick as possible, and crash the crease. The Hawks can't get jumpy when they start to get bruised, or that will give the Jackets life.

Ray Emery gets his second start of the season, and because the Jackets will struggle to move him side to side due to their lackluster puck movement, this should be a challenge he can handle. The fact that Columbus couldn't hit a bull in the behind with a show shovel won't hurt either. Steve Mason in goal for the BJs is having another middling start to the season, and the Hawks have generally had their way with him the past couple years.

You would hope the Hawks come out firing to make up for last night. No one thought that performance was acceptable, and they'll do their best to turn it on its head tonight. Or they should. If they do, the Jackets should be swatted aside with ease.

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