Flames @ Blackhawks, 6 pm

On the day it was announced Patrick Kane, Jonathon Toews and Brian Campbell were named All Star Game starters, Kane was also said to be game to game with a high ankle sprain.  (Ah, the dreaded “high ankle sprain.”  Most probably remember Sidney Crosby was hampered for months with the injury last season.  Let’s hope (a) Kane’s sprain isn’t nearly as severe as Crosby’s and (b) Evgeni Malkin steps up for the ‘Hawks, carrying Chicago to the NHL Finals.)  As such, Kane will miss this evening’s game against the Flames.  Sticking to his usual game plan, Joel Quennville will move Ben Eager up to the vacant scoring line spot; he’ll take Kane’s wing on the Patrick Sharp-centered line.  That means Adam Burish will play his first game since November 22nd in Toronto.  He’ll do so on the fourth line with Colin Fraser and Craig Adams.

(In an ironic twist, in voting for all three balloted Blackhawks for the All Star Game, those fans who were angry about Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith being left off the ballot also effectively left them off the team.  Three players for the ‘Hawks will likely be it, as the NHL prefers to send representatives from all 30 NHL clubs to the mid-season gala.  For what it’s worth, as good as Toews and Campbell have been this year, Sharp and Keith deserve to be in Montreal later this month in their place.)

The Flames come to Chicago red hot, having taken at least one point in each of their last ten games, including a home overtime loss against the ‘Hawks on December 19th.  As usual, the Flames are lead by their captain Jarome Iginla, who has 18 goals and 45 points.  Offseason acquisitions Mike Cammalleri and Rene Bourque both have contributed 14 goals, while Bourque is a team-best +9.  Todd Bertuzzi has a solid ten goals and is a team-worst -12, but has now gone a personal best 171 straight games without fracturing anyone’s vertebrae behind the play.  (That’s the shortest current streak among active NHL players who have played at least 172 games.)

This will be an important week for the ‘Hawks, who must manage to stay out of prolonged losing streaks to make the playoffs as a top seed.  Doing so without their offensive MVP will be difficult, especially with the Patrick Sharp line now including Troy Brouwer and Ben Eager.  Strong play from the Toews line will be important in Kane’s absence.

Finally, it should be mentioned that Kris Versteeg’s Winter Classic performance on the national stage likely gave him a boost in his attempt to become the Calder Trophy winner.  Columbus’ Steve Mason has also played very well as of late, racking up a sub-2.0 goals against average and a save percentage above .930.

Please also read our New Year’s Resolutions for Blackhawk Fans directly below, and remember to check the Fifth Feather everyday this new year.  It’s practically your duty as a ‘Hawk fan.

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