Previewing the Predators

Despite reports that winger Viktor Stalberg had been cleared to play, Coach Joel Quenneville, in an ode to Chicago managing comrade Ozzie Guillen, has decided to hold him out one extra day. 

This is also probably a nod to not wanting to mess with a machine that's been working the past two games.  Stalberg won't do you any good on a fourth line, and right now the top three are clicking.

So why blow it up just yet?  Because Stalberg is better than Kopecky?  You shush.  

Oh, for those of you new to my covering the Hawks, get used to the voices popping out for a hello every so often.  It happens.  Anyway, here's the lineup the Hawks will be rocking tonight:

Line 1: Patrick Sharp-Jonathan Toews-Troy Brouwer

Line 2: Bryan Bickell-Dave Bolland-Fernando Pisani

Line 3: Jack Skille-Jake Dowell-Tomas Kopecky

Line 4: John Scott-Ryan Johnson-Jordan Hendry

Defensive Pair 1: Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook

Pair 2: Brian Campbell-Niklas Hjalmarsson

Pair 3: Jassen Cullimore-Nick Boynton

Starting Goalie: Corey Crawford

It's a  totally different challenge tonight then the one the Hawks have faced the past two games. Whereas Detroit and Los Angeles excel at bringing pressure, Nashville is more concerned with protecting their net and capitalizing on mistakes. 

Admiral Ackbar won't be yelling, "It's a trap!" tonight. 

Nashville is conservative, and they make life hell for the Hawks' not by clogging the neutral zone, but by clogging the Hawks zone. Their d-men pinch down on the Hawks' wingers and wait on the half-boards, while one or two Predators wingers chase 'Hawks' d-men behind the net trying to cause a turnover.  Watch tonight how many times a puck is rung around the boards and waiting Hawks winger has a Pred d-man on him like the prison shower.  It's infuriating.  The Hawks must chip the puck out, aerially for those who don't know, and then zoom through the neutral zone after it.

Whereas the 'Hawks could wait the past two games to wait for openening on mistakes by the opponent, they won't get that tonight.  They'll have to create thier own offense.  The Preds are masters of keeping everything to the outside in their zone, so you have to fight to get the puck to the net and between the circles.  The 'Hawks haven't always showed a stomach for that.  They'll have no choice tonight.

And they'll need to find a power play goal against one of the better killing units in the league.  While the 'Hawks rank 2nd, when it came up against a real kill in LA on Sunday it looked coyote on an ice block helpless (topical!).  Can't afford that tonight, as when chances are so scarce you have to cash in on a man advantage. 

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