Home, sweet... er, not really, in Nashville's case. The Preds are home for the first time in over two weeks, a quick stop between extensive road trips, and no one's really sure if that's a good thing or not. They haven't played particularly strong lately, but they did snap their five game skid with Thursday night's 3-2 shootout win over the Blues. Having said that, they've also dropped four of their last five at home.
Let that memory sink in for a minute. Let the hate flow through you. No, seriously. It's completely fine. Stop reading this for ten seconds and remember that night. I'm perfectly content to wait right here.
Back? Alrighty, then... let's get started.
Hit the jump for a breakdown of tonight's game.
The Preds have struggled at home this season, with a record 2-1-3 so far. It's been nearly a month since the last win here at Bridgestone Arena, and injuries have obviously been the huge story. The shootout win Thursday night couldn't have come at a better time, and now Nashville needs to build on it. Ryan Suter and Martin Erat's absences have hurt, but the mental lapses this team has shown for the last two or three weeks have just killed them.
Cal O'Reilly has stepped up with the injuries to Erat and Matthew Lombardi. He currently has put up 12 points on the season (3 goals-9 assists), a career high in season points in just fourteen games, and two of those goals have come in the last two outings. If he finds the back of the net again tonight, it will be the first time in his career putting together three straight contests with a goal. He'll definitely need to put up at least a point or two for the Preds to have a shot.
|2010 - Cal O`Reilly||3||9||12||2||0|
It's going to be interesting to see how Rinne plays, as this is his first action against Chicago this season. He's only put up a record of 3-4-2 so far this year, but he hasn't exactly gotten a great deal of support offensively, either. When he starts, Nashville has given up the first goal of the game six times, for a 1-4-1 record. When Nashville scores first, he's 2-0-1.
|2010 - Pekka Rinne||9||503||3||4||24||2.86||268||244||.910||1|
Nashville Predators Lines
Lombardi is continuing to recover from his concussion, but word from practice this morning is that Erat and Suter were out of the red "no-contact" jerseys they'd been practicing in the last few days. Keep your fingers crossed.
The Blackhawks have been an interesting story this year. It's hard to be prepared for the reigning champs to struggle as much as they have, but we knew this was coming even before they won the Cup last year. They may sit at seventh in the Western Conference Standings, but it sure doesn't feel like that if you're a 'Hawks fan.
The problem, as Al Yellon of SB Nation Chicago puts it, is that there is no spark:
"This isn't the Blackhawks' fault - obviously, they'd have loved to keep most if not all of those players. But NHL salary cap rules meant the Hawks had to divest some players in order to keep stars like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane."
They've lost four of their last five, and seven of their last ten, and they're looking for a way to turn things around. Their offense is sitting at a mediocre 16th in the NHL with 2.72 goals per game, and Patrick Sharp leads the team with ten goals.
|2010 - Patrick Sharp||10||7||17||-11||2|
|2010 - Marty Turco||14||813||7||5||37||2.73||415||378||.911||0|
Who needs the netminder that won you the Stanley Cup? Not Chicago. Well, at least they didn't think they did. Stanley Cup winning goaile Antti Niemi is with San Jose this season, but hasn't exactly been lighting things up there. Grizzled veteran Marty Turco came in to try and improve this part of the 'Hawks game, but it hasn't exactly worked out so far.
Not that Nashville has been any better in net, so far.
Chicago has been much better on the road than at the United Center, with a 4-2-1 record on the road. Nashville, on the other hand, hasn't been as bad on their home ice as some teams, but the Preds have still not taken advantage of The Stone as they should. The Blackhawks are coming off two straight losses and are mad. Head Coach Joel Quenneville actually benched defenseman Duncan Keith against Phoenix for "poor play," and it will be interesting to see if the team responds tonight.
With the injuries and poor offensive production Nashville is getting, and their sub-par performance at home combined with Chicago's better reputation on the road this season, I see Nashville struggling to get a win, and therefore falling to the 'Hawks 3-2. That being said, I'll be thrilled if they prove me wrong.
Now, everyone think back to that night back in April when we last saw this team...
Make Chicago feel "welcome," gang.