It's a game that many Hawks fans, including myself, circled on the calendar before the season started. In the Hawks' major roster shakeup this summer, the majority of those departed from the Windy City ended up in A-Town. Those four dealt to the Thrashers this past offseason will square off with their former mates on Saturday night at Philips Arena.
Interestingly enough, those that were traded to Atlanta seem to be having the most success so far this season. Andrew Ladd and big Dustin Byfuglien are both wearing As for the Thrashers. Ladd got off to a hot start, with Buff in the midst of his own hot streak. Both have posted 12 points on the season, with the latter of the two putting four points up in his last three contests, including a pair of goals.
Even Brent Sopel and Ben Eager have made their presence known in Atlanta. Neither was ever known for their appearances on the score sheet, but the presence they brought to the ice is something that the Hawks have been sorely lacking in recent weeks.
For Chicago, the intensity that this game has the potential to bring is something that they've lacked nearly all year. They know they're in for a physical matchup, with guys like Buff and Eager staring them down from the other side, and will have to show a dramatic improvement from their lack of a willingness to get physical.
Not only will they have to get physical, they have to put the puck in the net. They were unable to take advantage of a mediocre Devils blue line, but will have another chance against an average Atlanta D.
It all starts with Patrick Kane. While it has been nice to see the guys on the lower lines, like Jake Dowell, pot a goal here and there, Kane's disappearance from the score sheet is one of the reasons that we see these Hawks reeling right now.
Oddly enough, this game may be a must-win for the Blackhawks. It's rare that "must-win" is carried with a game that isn't against a division opponent and that isn't a potential Stanley Cup preview. But the Hawks have had that tendency to play a bit lax against their lowly opponents (see: New Jersey on Wednesday). This will need to change, starting on Saturday when the puck drops in Atlanta.