While the calendar creeps towards faceoff on Friday night, lets take some time to review past doings with the Chicago Blackhawks. Admittedly, there isn't much of a the bitter rivalry factor with these Central Division pals, but there are certainly some notable moments to remind you of and the season series to revisit...
4. Hat tricks o' plenty
An interesting statistical note from the team media guide shows that in the all-time Nashville/Chicago series, the Predators have registered four hat tricks to the Blackhawks' one (Jeff Hamilton, 12/2/06):
From the angle in the video, it was certainly a questionable hit on Hamhuis' part. 'Hammer' went unpenalized, however, Seabrook received an instigator penalty and a game misconduct. While Ruutu is not on the team anymore, and its doubtful that there remains any bad blood between Seabrook and Hamhuis, the physicality level in the series will be something to keep an eye on. Both squads ice players more than capable of mixing it up (see: Tootoo, Jordin and Eager, Ben).
2. Jay Zawaski labels Nashvillians 'hill rods', fixes NHL for Gary Bettman
In December of 2009, ChicagoNow 'journalist' Jay Zawaski took the opportunity to propose an NHL realignment plan. His idea? Move Chicago to a division with only Original Six teams, and banish Nashville to an expansion team-only division because the Blackhawks don't have a rivalry with the Predators:
So why are Predators so uninteresting? They've been competitive at times. They've battled the Hawks for playoff spots before.
The answer is Nashville. At least to me, there is a mental block that a team from Nashville Tennessee doesn't frickin' matter. It's the most un-hockey place on the planet.
Hell, when the Preds score they play Tim McGraw's, "I Like It, I Love It, I Want Some More of It" song. Way to buck the stereotype hill rods.
That pretty much speaks for itself. Found in the comments of that article was a confession from Jay that he had 'never attended a game in Nashville'. Well, then. He certainly should be able to speak with authority on Nashville hockey.
They say nothing builds animosity like a playoff series. Hope you're watching, Jay, and if you head to Nashville this postseason, do look me up.
1. Steve Sullivan returns from two year absence against former team
The longer the 'Timmins Tornado' was out of the game of hockey, the more Predators fans feared his career was over for good. So when he started practicing with the team again, there was justified skepticism throughout the fanbase. Sullivan had played most of his career with Chicago, and was able to make an emotional return to the ice against the Blackhawks.
If you're wondering which player will be the most motivated this postseason, look no further than Sully. He not only will compete against his former team, but also missed the last two playoffs the Predators participated in.
2009-10 season series
Back when Nashville couldn't score and Pekka Rinne couldn't save, the Blackhawks were tearing through the NHL. At the time, commenters were wondering if Trotz should go and even Dirk was left scratching his head.
Wait, there was a problem with letting opponents park in front of the net? Never heard of it...
Rinne bagged his first of seven shutouts, and there was improvement (albeit slowly) in the special teams.
Despite Dan Hamhuis getting completely owned by Jonathan Toews on an early highlight reel goal, Nashville bounced back in a big way as the victories started to pick up during a nine win month.
In their only game against Antti Niemi this season, the Preds were able to put four goals on the board and come back from two down. Didn't matter, though, as Dan Ellis was unable to stop Patrick Kane in the waning minutes.
While it doesn't have the background of Nashville's rivalry with San Jose or Detroit, there's the makings of a spirited tussle between two good teams here. What do you think?