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February 13, 2008

HITME Round 2

This is Phil Russell. He's my biggest concern as my simulation Los Angeles Kings head into round 2 of the HITME retro hockey league.

Russell, along with Jerry Korab and Jim Dorey, headlines a nasty, physical defense of the Chicago Blackhawks. To make matters worse, veteran goalie Tony Esposito is in nets. The combination of experience and defense allowed the Hawks, 7th place finishers in the Western Conference, to upset the favored Kansas City Scouts.

Now the ace pairing of Russell and Dorey will be trying to shut down my high powered offense in the battle to play in the conference finals.

My Kings were able to get by the St. Louis Blues in 4 games straight, thanks to specialty teams, good goaltending, and especially roster depth. The Blues played an incredibly physical series, causing my worst injury situations in the whole season.

I had to compete in parts of the series without my team captain and number one center Butch Goring, number 3 center Juha Widing, top two defensemen Mike McMahon and Barry Long, and veteran goalie Gump Worsley. Fortunately guys like Dave Hutchison, Don Luce, and Terry Crisp were all in my system and able to step up and play key minutes.

I was fairly confident I could get by round one. And even though I know my Kings will be heavily favored against the Hawks, I really do believe this series is a toss up. The Hawks are even more physical than the Blues, and they have a more experienced team which seems to give such simulation teams an edge in the playoffs.

I have to somehow keep my gunners away from Russell and Dorey. Fortunately I have two 100 point scorers on my team, and on different lines. RWs Serge Bernier and Jean Pronovost are my two key scorers, and Russell and Dorey can't play against both lines. If Chicago breaks that pairing up, I think that also works in my favor.

I probably won't have Goring back until game 3, so my top two lines are not at full strength. I will definitely need one of Juha Widing, Jim Lorentz and Claude St. Saveur to step up their play in this series. I have to keep my defense active on the offense. And hopefully I can get lots of pucks on goalie Esposito, who enters the series just a touch less than 100% health. If I can run him down early, hopefully I will be able to squeak pass this daunting Chicago team.

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