Blackhawks wanting to wipe the slate clean in return to Nashville
On Tuesday, the Chicago Blackhawks (24-7-5) are visiting one of their division rivals, the Nashville Predators (16-14-13), a team that currently sits 11th in the Western Conference and 18th league wide. The Blackhawks themselves are leading the league in points, followed closely by the Anaheim Ducks.
The Blackhawks have faced the Predators once in the season, a 7-2 blowout loss for Chicago exactly a month ago. They will want to put on a better show than they put on the last time they visited Nashville, especially after their most recent loss, on Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. They managed to bounce back on Sunday, beating the Los Angeles Kings 3-1, but they will want to keep going after that win. The Blackhawks have been very strong throughout and are still relatively healthy at this point of the season where multiple teams are suffering from plenty of injuries in their lineup.
The Predators themselves are without number 1 goaltender Pekka Rinne, who is out indefinitely with a staph infection in his hip. Their backup goaltending has been tried and tested; Carter Hutton, after being traded from the Blackhawks system, has started 11 games for the Predators and posted a .913 SV% and 2.76 GAA, while Marek Manzanec has started in 13 games, posting a .915 SV% and 2.51 GAA.
While they lack depth in offense, even with the addition of ex-Blackhawk and Stanley Cup Champion Viktor Stalberg, they have strength in defence, with veteran Shea Weber playing alongside 2013 Draft 1st rounder Seth Jones and young talent Roman Josi.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are showing great offense, led by winger Patrick Kane (19G, 26A), right behind Sidney Crosby in the points race – Kane is also on a 9-game points streak. Defenceman Duncan Keith is 3rd in the league in assists and continuing his campaign to earn him another Norris Trophy nomination, while youngster Brandon Saad is tied 2nd in the league with D-man Brent Seabrook in +/- at 18.
The Blackhawks are still dealing with the recent injury to goaltender Corey Crawford which is side-lining him for another couple of weeks, along with the long-lasting injury to Nikolai Khabibulin, but they just acquired veteran netminder Jason LaBarbera from the Edmonton Oilers for support. He’s been assigned to the Rockford Icehogs. Rookie goaltender Antti Raanta has been solid in net for Chicago despite allowing 5 goals against the Maple Leafs before Coach Joel Quenneville pulled him; his SV% is still good at .915. It’s probable he will be in net for the Blackhawks against the Predators.
The Blackhawks might face problems with their penalty kill special team, which is still struggling at 73.8%, allowing 2 goals in their last 12 times shorthanded, while the Predators have a solid power play, sitting in the top 10 in the league. Their penalty kill is also strong at 85%, even if Chicago has seen really good results on the power play recently, scoring at least one power play goal in their last 9 games.
This match-up a month ago was difficult to watch for Blackhawks fans – the team will hopefully try its best to erase these memories from their fans’ minds, as well as their most recent loss. The Blackhawks should seek to keep out of the box so as to not have to lean on their penalty kill team, while pushing the offense as they know how to do.
Game time is 8.00 p.m. ET and can be seen live on CSN-CH and FS-TN.