Game Time: 6:30 PM
TV/Radio: CSN-Chicago WGN 720
Last year: Panthers won 3-2 in Florida, Hawks won 4-0 at the UC
(Here comes the most obvious introduction to a preview)
Tonight, the Blackhawks (wait for it....wait for it....) take their talents to South Beach (Bam!) to take on Uncle Dale’s new and improved (maybe) Florida Panthers. The Panthers made waves this summer by signing. Scottie Upshall, Tomas Fleischmann,Sean Bergenheim, Marcel Goc, Matt Bradley, Ed Jovanovski, and Jose Theodore. Joining them via trade were the familiar faces of Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kopecky, who were all acquired via trade. They joined the always popular and overhyped Jack Skilie. Skillz seems to get excited to face former teammates, getting into it with Buff and Ladd on Monday night.
Anyway, the Panthers are out to a 6-4-1 start out of the gate and that is largely due to the offensive performance of none other than Campbell. Soupy has 11 assists already this year (had 22 all of last season) and has seen a lot of on the power play where he has been very effective (WHO WOULD HAVE SEEN THAT COMING?!?!?!?!?!) where he has 8 assists. Yes, you read that correctly. Campbell is also an alternate captain on the team, which seems cool, but then you realized that Kopecky is also, and that takes away from it. Campbell’s 11 assists leads the team in scoring, which says a lot of what you need to know.
But who leads the Panthers in goals? Among those is none other than the world’s least favorite rapper, Kris Versteeg who has 5 goals which is tied with Fleischmann and Jason Garrison. Versteeg’s six assists to go along with those are enough to tie him with Campbell on points. Versteeg has had his usual offensive flair to go along with a complete sense of apathy on defense, but he does have 3 goals on the power play. Garrison has been a surprise this year, as his give goals are the most among defesemen in the league.
But scoring has been a problem for Florida so far this year. Kopecky has only lit the lamp once this year as has Scottie Upshall, who was expected to contribute a lot more but has since been demoted to the Panther’s fourth line. Adding to the Panthers scoring woes is the shocker that Jack Skille hasn’t scored this year. Uncle Dale noticed the scoring issues and decided that David Booth was to pay the price, sending the Detroit native and the rest of his $4.5 million cap hit for the next four seasons to Vancouver for old men Marco Sturm and Mikael Samuelsson, who have their contracts expiring at the end of the year. There was some surprised around the locker room, as Booth was said to have broken down in tears from the trade. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Dale, it’s that he likes to overspend. If there’s another thing, it’s that he likes to leave his mark on a team. Booth was signed under the previous GM and wasn’t really one of Tallon’s guys, and we know how loyal Tallon is to his guys. Remember the time he traded Michael Frolik for Jack Skille? Thanks Dale!
Meanwhile, we will see a bit of a shaken up Hawks team tonight. Duncan Keith is out with an “upper body” injury after leaving the game on Monday after a puck hit him in the hand. The only worrisome thing about this is that the guy lost several teeth during a game and returned to win the conference. With Keith out, Nick Leddy will most likely be paired with Sean O’Donnell on defense tonight. This also means that Sami Lepisto will continue with a run in the team. The team will be in front of the always Cramazing Corey Crawford tonight (Q hinted that Emery will start in Tampa Friday night).
Q hit the slots and thus promoted Viktor Stalberg to the first line, replacing the returned from suspension Dan Carcillo who will now be on the fourth line. It’s a nice reward for Stalberg, who was great on Saturday and Monday for the Hawks and has earned the chance to skate with Toews. Patrick Sharp will move to the second line with Hossa and Kane after the Carcillo move. Sadly, John Scott will probably get his three minutes of ice time, or maybe Q will give a not too emotional homecoming to Rostislav Olesz.
Over on the power play, it’s been mentioned that Montador could see some time with Keith out and why not at this point? The power play has somehow taken a step back form last season, but did look better on Monday. As many have mentioned, it seems like once the Hawks find a way to break through the floodgates will open. However, that hasn’t happened yet and no better time than now. The sooner this gets moving, the better. With all the talent out there, the Hawks have the potential to be explosive. And since the Hawks are on the road, there’s no excuse for the stupid power play song/dance for the next couple games.
Last year the Hawks were playing their best hockey before stumbling in Florida. There’s a big game at the United Center Sunday night and it would be nice to see the Hawks put on a show for their Dads. It’s going to be important to hit the ground running and not fall behind early.
Also, be sure to check out Kelly’s new adventures over at Puck Drunk Love.
Let's Go Hawks.