Friday night's game between the Blackhawks and the Hurricanes is huge for both clubs. It's not necessarily because they're playing each other, but for their respective playoffs hopes.
Currently, the Hawks sit 4th in the tight Western Conference with a record of 35-23-6 and 76 points. The Hurricanes are in 7th in the Eastern Conference with a record of 31-25-9 and 71 points, only up on the 8th place Rangers by one point.
[**This was before all of Thursday's games had ended.]
|Jonathan Toews celebrates after scoring his second goal of the night on Wednesday.|
The Hawks are coming into Friday night as one of the hottest teams in the NHL. They're currently on a six game winning streak and are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games.
In those 10 games, the top of line of Jonathan Toews centering Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane has been red hot. They've accumulated 37 points in that span [14G, 23A]. Toews leads that line with 15 of those points [6G, 9A]. Sharp and Kane both have 11. [Sharp has 6 goals and 5 assists whereas Kane has 2 goals and 9 assists.]
On the backend for the Hawks, it hasn't been the Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook tandem that has been shutting down opposing top lines. 19 year old rookie Nick Leddy has been paired up with Keith, and they have made quite a pairing. Keith has been +4 since being paired up with him starting on February 9th. Leddy has been +2.
Don't worry about Seabrook though--he's doing just fine being with Niklas Hjalmarsson back there. In fact, since being with Hjalmarsson, Seabrook has been a +6. He also signed a 5 year, $29 million contract extension on February 27th.
Goaltender Corey Crawford has been a rock in net. He's currently 3rd in the league with his 2.17 goals against average.
The Hawks sit at the top of the league with their power play percentage of 24.7. They're edging out Vancouver by .2%
Their penalty kill leaves a lot to be desired as it is 27th at a 77.9%.
Trade Deadline Moves
•Before the deadline, on February 9th, General Manager Stan Bowman sent Jack Skille, Hugh Jessiman, and prospect David Pacan to Florida in exchange for Michael Frolik and goalie prospect Alexander Salak.
•On the 28th, the deadline itself, Ryan Potulny and a conditional 2nd round pick in the 2011 draft were sent to Ottawa for defenseman Chris Campoli and a conditional 7th round pick in the draft. Not only had Bowman been saying he was wanting to acquire another defenseman for awhile, but it became even more imperative when Jordan Hendry went down with a torn ACL on the 27th.
The Hawks are coming off of a 6-4 win over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday. Toews scored twice in the win and Dave Bolland got the goal that ended up being the game winner with a bullet from the right circle. Michael Frolik also got his first goal in a Hawk uniform.
|Erik Cole [center] celebrates with Jussi Jokinen [left] and Eric Staal [right] after scoring the go ahead goal on February 18th on Rod Brind'Amour night.|
The Canes haven't been as hot as the Hawks in their last 10 games, but they've been holding their own, getting points where they can. They're 5-3-2 and have been playing some pretty decent hockey. 9 of those 10 games have been one goal games, with the exception of a 4-1 loss to the Devils on February 19th.
Eric Staal continues to lead the way for them in goals with 28. Erik Cole has been on the right wing with him for most of the season, and those two have great chemistry. They've had a rotating winger on the left side with them, which have included the likes of Zach Boychuk, Chad LaRose, and Jussi Jokinen. But since reacquiring Cory Stillman, he's been playing up there with the Eric(k)s. It's almost like they haven't missed a beat. Stillman was on their line back in 2006 when they won the Stanley Cup.
Brandon Sutter has turned into a great two way center for the Canes. He leads the team in +/- with a +14 rating and has put up 24 points in 65 games [12 G, 12 A]. Coach Paul Maurice counts on him in pretty much every situation including sending him out to shut down opposing top lines and on the penalty kill. More likely than not, he may draw the assignment of the Sharp-Toews-Kane line.
Rookie Jeff Skinner has been sensational in his 1st NHL season. He's the leading rookie scorer in the league with 48 points [22G, 26A]. He has also drawn a ton of huge penalties for the Canes as he is so good at using his edges to maneuver around defenders, causing them to take a penalty.
He's also not afraid to get his nose dirty. Even though he's only 5'10", he gets to the scoring areas of the ice and is also able to work for pucks along the boards in order to make a play. He's not afraid of anyone either. Teams have tried roughing him up, hitting him hard, and he just keeps on trucking and starts playing with a bit of a snarl in his game.
Watching him is something else, and he will be a star in this league for many years to come.
What else can you say?
His goaltending has been outstanding again this year. Especially in the last couple of games, his rebound control has been good and he continues to make the stops when he needs to.
He's seen the majority of the work-lode this season, appearing in 58 games. He has a record of 28-21-8 and leads the league in saves with 1,720--that's not necessarily a good thing though when you think about team defense...
He has a 2.68 goals against average and a .920 save percentage.
Maurice hasn't said if Ward is starting Friday, but it wouldn't be a surprise really. If he doesn't though, Justin Peters will see his first game action since January 17th against the Boston Bruins. Peters has only appeared in 11 games and his record is 3-4-1 with a .879 save percentage and a 3.88 GAA.
Don't let the numbers fool you though. Peters is a good, solid goaltender. He's 6'1" and has played pretty good when he has gotten a chance.
Once again... that whole team defense thing has kind of been at low points when he's seen the ice sometimes.
The power play has had its moments this season, but it hasn't been the greatest. It's 20th in the league at a 16.8%.
The penalty kill is better than the Hawks', but barely. It's 23rd in the league at 80.7%.
Trade Deadline Moves
•The Canes sent Ian White over to San Jose on the 18th for a 2nd round draft pick in the 2012 draft.
•That same day, the Canes got defenseman Derek Joslin from San Jose in a different trade.
•On the 25th, the Canes traded Ryan Carter and a 5th round pick in the 2011 draft to Florida for a familiar face in Cory Stillman.
•Finally, on the deadline day, defenseman Brett Carson was claimed on waivers by the Calgary Flames and winger Sergei Samsonov was traded to Florida for defenseman Bryan Allen.
The Canes played Thursday night at home against the Buffalo Sabres. Jiri Tlusty and LaRose both tied the game up in the second period after the Canes had fallen into a one goal hole each time. The game went to overtime and 26 seconds in, Jamie McBain bombed a shot from the point, and with traffic provided by Captain Staal, the puck got past Ryan Miller for the 3-2 win.
Last Meeting Between These Two Teams
Last year, the Hawks were down at the RBC Center on January 30th for their lone meeting of the year. The Canes won 4-2 with goals from Samsonov, Jokinen, Sutter, and Matt Cullen. The Hawks' two goals were scored by Marian Hossa and Andrew Ladd.
|The Canes' mascot Stormy on game day. The area was pounded by snow and drew a small crowd, even though it was supposed to be a sold out game.|
|Brandon Sutter scoring the eventual game winner.|