Hawks-Flyers, Game 1: Take your shot now

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Hawks-Flyers, Game 1: Take your shot now

Friday, May 28, 2010
11:21 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO This is it, Cinderella Philadelphians. Take your best shot and steal a win Saturday or face a painful and inevitable snatching of the Stanley Cup from your bruised and calloused hands.

(Full disclosure: Ive picked the Blackhawks in fiveand if Im wrong, Id say the series will tip closer to a four-gamer than six.)

Winning Game 1 is certainly the best, and nearly only, option for the Philadelphia Flyers if they want to upset the Chicago Blackhawks to win the 2010 Stanley Cup. While Philadelphia may indeed be a team of destiny, its a lot more likely its destiny will be as the fourth team in major sports history and third NHL team to come back from a 3-0 deficit to advance in a series, period, (premature) end of story. And while the destiny stuff is stirring, really, cmon, the Flyers romped over the No. 2-seeded New Jersey Devils and pretty well dismantled the hottest goalie in hockey, Jaro Halak, in dismissing the Montreal Canadiens. Both of those series were sleepwalkswhere does all the drama and destiny kick in?

Besides, until Philly went ham on the Boston Bruins and made them an unenviable footnote to history as victims of a double 3-0 rally, if there was a team of destiny, it was the Hawks. Just 14 seconds from a do-or-die game in Nashville down 3-2 to the Predators in the quarters, Chicago tied Game 5 with on a shortie by Patrick Kane and won it a few minutes into overtime on a Marian Hossa tally.

But enough of the battle over who gets to roll Bittersweet Symphony behind their team highlights this season. The crux of the biscuit: How can Philadelphia win Game 1? Its easy, but it requires swallowing some pride and slowing the game down. All indications are that Philly wants to fly high and get into a sprinting match with Chicago, and it doesnt matter how many Rocky montages they watch in the Flyers pregame dressing room with Chicagos few-hit-wonders Survivor supplying the soundtrack, that strategy aint gonna fly now. The one openingand its barn-door wide, actuallyis for Philly to opt for heavy sandpaper grit mode, slow the game down and demoralize a still relatively young, somewhat impressionable Blackhawks team.

Redshirts fans will scoff: No manner of sloggy or slushy play will deter my Blackhawks from the Cup. While that is a romantic notion, and Im a romantic fella, verdict: hogwash. The Preds, who had no business forcing Chicago into a panic, did so time and time again (Games 1, 3, 5). The Blackhawks came within 14 seconds of having their Stanley Cup dream deferredby Nashville. A team that wasnt too proud to slush it up.

Barring a slowdown game, the Flyers have little hope short of Jabberwocky stuff: Transformers exploding and shortening Game 1; a train derailing to delay Game 3; human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria scarring Game 5, ad infinitum.

This is the series you wanted, Philadelphia. Now go out there and act like you want to win it. Otherwise, by Game 4, women and children will have to turn away from the sights that will be seen.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger has been sidelined a little longer than the originally expected three weeks with his right hand injury. Not that any missed time is enjoyable.

"I wanted to get back there probably a few weeks ago but unfortunately I couldn't," said Kruger, who suffered his injury on Dec. 30 against the Carolina Hurricanes. "I tried to listen to the doctors and do everything I can instead to be ready when I get cleared. That's my mindset."

Kruger is close, but not quite there, as the Blackhawks prepared for Sunday night's game against the Vancouver Canucks. Kruger skated with his teammates for the first time since being injured but wasn't among the line rushes. The center took faceoffs on his own at the end of practice. Kruger pronounced himself, "pretty close," to returning. Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks will see how Kruger is over the next few days. The Blackhawks play again Tuesday and Thursday before heading into the All-Star break this weekend.

The Blackhawks have missed Kruger's versatility and especially his play on the penalty kill. The Blackhawks' kill has been fine through Kruger's absence but he nevertheless is a big part of it when he's healthy.

"We have a lot of options and when he's out everyone gets a more important role, whether starting or faceoffs. And we have a rotation of five guys who are in there most of the time. But he definitely absorbs the most responsibility when he's playing in that area," Quenneville said of Kruger. "So it's nice you get to try some other guys and you get deeper as you go along."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

One of the players who's emerged in Kruger's absence is Tanner Kero, who filled his third-line center void. Kero and linemates Vinnie Hinostroza and Marian Hossa clicked on the dads trip, coming up with big plays and points in the Blackhawks' victories over Colorado and Boston. As of now, Kero appears to have the hold on third-line center.

"I don't see too many things that would change his positioning because he really helped himself," Quenneville said.

Kruger said he's fine if that means returning to fourth-line center duties. Regardless, he'll help bolster the Blackhawks' forward lines. The last step is likely contact, which Kruger got a little of – outside of faceoffs – in Sunday's skate. Kruger's had to wait a little longer than expected on his injury but he's getting there.

“Obviously [I want to] get back and playing the same way,” Kruger said. “First I want to get healthy and then get back playing my best and do everything I can for the team.”

Blackhawks updates: Why Joel Quenneville is starting Corey Crawford vs. Canucks

Blackhawks updates: Why Joel Quenneville is starting Corey Crawford vs. Canucks

Corey Crawford will start but Marcus Kruger won't play yet when the Blackhawks host the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night.

Scott Darling is coming off a 30-stop shutout in the Blackhawks' 1-0 victory over Boston on Friday night. Coach Joel Quenneville said there was some consideration given to start Darling in this one, too, but, "at the same time we want Crow playing as much as he can to get back to the great pace he had prior to being away."

"He hasn't been bad. But certainly that's what we're looking for him to get back to," Quenneville said on Crawford. "I like giving Darls some consideration. We'll see but [Darling] certainly enhanced his positioning."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Meanwhile, Marcus Kruger skated with the Blackhawks for the first time since hurting his hand against the Carolina Hurricanes on Dec. 30. He took faceoffs on his own at the end of practice but was not among the line rushes. Quenneville said the Blackhawks will see how Kruger is for either Tuesday or Thursday but, "knowing we have that [All-Star] break, we'll see how he feels and what our options are."

Kruger said he felt, "pretty close."

"I tried to take it day by day and prepare to play," Kruger said. "Obviously not tonight, but the next game we will see." 

BLACKHAWKS VS. VANCOUVER CANUCKS
6:30 p.m.
TV: WGN
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Chicago Blackhawks
Forward lines

Ryan Hartman-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Vinnie Hinostroza-Tanner Kero-Marian Hossa
Andrew Desjardins-Dennis Rasmussen-Nick Schmaltz

Defensive pairs
Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender
Corey Crawford

INJURIES/ILLNESS: Marcus Kruger (right arm).

Vancouver Canucks (via Canucks)
Forward lines

Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Loui Eriksson
Sven Baertschi-Bo Horvat-Alex Burrows
Markus Granlund-Brandon Sutter-Jayson Megna
Brendan Gaunce-Michael Chaput-Jack Skille

Defensive Pairs
Alex Edler-Troy Stecher
Luca Sbisa-Chris Tanev
Alex Biega-Nikita Tryamkin

Goaltender
Ryan Miller

INJURIES/ILLNESS: Anton Rodin (knee), Ben Hutton (hand), Jannik Hansen (knee), Erik Gudbranson (wrist), Philip Larsen (upper body), Derek Dorsett (back).