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Game 51: Blackhawks At Avalanche, Preview And Open Thread

Let me begin by saying I've always really admired Blackhawks coach Denis Savard.  Not only was he a great player and now a good coach, but he's also a snazzy dresser.  Colorado's Coach Q sometimes looks like he sleeps in his suits, like a presidential candidate or a Japanese office worker.  Not Savard.  He always looks like a million bucks.

I'd love to know who his tailor is.

But while Savard's sartorial sensibilities have his appearance always in order, his hockey team is another story.  Despite a new sense of purpose in the front office, a good coach and some killer young talent, the 'Hawks are struggling.  They're stuck at .500 in a newly-competitive Central Division and are looking at another year out of the playoffs.

Chicago's 1-0 loss to Columbus last Thursday was the last straw for Savard:

"Commit to the Indian."

That's got to be the quote of the year.  That and "You might get a cut, you might get bruised, so what?"  Savard is my kind of hockey coach.

Now, the real question at hand is did that tirade spark anything in his players?  If it did, it's probably bad news for the Avalanche, who face the 'Hawks tonight in the Pepsi Center.  Colorado is suffering from its own struggles, though the Avs are lacking in skill (due to injuries) more than effort as of late.  They're playing hard, but they're falling behind early and failing to capitalize on the few offensive chances they get.  

The Avs are still in the playoff hunt (barely), and still have a pretty good overall record (barely).  They're not far from the Northwest Division lead.  But with such a void of scoring ability, they have to play harder and smarter than ever to secure the points they'll need when the curtain closes on the regular season.  Last year they waited until game 65 to get their shit together.  This year, it has to be game 51.

TJ Hensick will return to the lineup after wrecking the AHL all star game with 2 goals and 2 assists.  He'll be bringing his friend Brad Richardson with him from Cleveland, too.  With Paul Stastny set to return next week, you have to know Richardson and Hensick will be fighting each other for the center spot on the third line from now until then.  The loser goes right back to Lake Erie.

Oh, and Jose Theodore will start in net again.  While it's great to see Q finally commit to a goalie, this bit from the ESPN preview made me a little worried:

Jose Theodore, who likely will start his 11th straight game, is 0-1-1 with a 2.41 goals-against average versus Chicago this season. Backup Peter Budaj, though, has won his last three starts against the Blackhawks, allowing just five goals.

Oh well.  The game starts at 7:30 PM Mountain time, 9:30 Eastern.  Let's get some goals!

ESPN preview.