Chicago Blackhawks @ Nashville Predators Preview: Marty Party

Mess with Pekka, and pay.

[NHL.com] - [SB Nation] - [Second City Hockey]

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With one streak over, its time to begin a new one for the Nashville Predators tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Preds are one point ahead of the Hawks, but Chicago is closing fast, having won three in a row. Any separation from your rivals at any time of year is a good thing, and the Predators can shake some of the inconsistent label with a victory tonight.

After the jump, Martin Erat returns to the lineup (again), and a few other scattered thoughts.

Lineups

Nashville

Anders Lindback is good...but Pekka Rinne is great.

Pekka Rinne

#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators

6-5

207

Nov 03, 1982

GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2010 - Pekka Rinne 28 1622 13 11 58 2.15 794 736 .927 3

Out tonight for the Preds due to injury will be Matthew Lombardi, Steve Sullivan, and Cal O`Reilly. Jordin Tootoo remains out indefinitely, while Shane O`Brien will be serving the first game of his two game suspension.

Forwards
Wilson - Legwand - Svatos
Kostitsyn - Goc - Hornqvist
Ward - Spaling - Smithson
Erat (A) - Mueller - Dumont
Defense
 Suter (A) - Weber (C)
Klein - Bouillon 
Franson - Sulzer

Chicago

Corey Crawford has pretty much usurped Marty Turco as the Hawks' number one, and will be starting tonight.

Corey Crawford

#50 / Goalie / Chicago Blackhawks

6-2

200

Dec 31, 1984

GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2010 - Corey Crawford 24 1403 15 8 50 2.14 625 575 .920 2

The Blackhawks are much healthier than when we last saw them, returning Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane.

Forwards
Brouwer - Toews (C) - Kane
Kopecky - Sharp (A) - Hossa
Pisani - Bolland - Bickell
Stalberg - Dowell - Skille
Defense
Keith (A) - Seabrook
Hjalmarsson - Campbell
Hendry - Leddy

Thoughts

  • One of the things that's produced a great deal of success for the Predators over the past few weeks has been picking some line combinations and sticking with them. It'll be interesting to see, then, what Barry Trotz does with Martin Erat - my hope is that he slides into Wade Belak's spot alongside J.P. Dumont and Chris Mueller.
  • Speaking of Chris Mueller, I've been fairly impressed in his short body of work here. He's not getting prime ice, and hasn't scored, but he hasn't shown up in an awful way, either. A subtle endorsement of Mueller's performance was the scratching of Andreas Thuresson instead, who has quite a bit more experience with the Predators.
  • Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook get a lot of media attention, and deservedly so - they're one of the best defensive pairings in the NHL, and Keith is the reigning Norris Trophy winner. That said - Shea Weber and Ryan Suter aren't bad. In fact, they're better.
  • Hawks' goalie Corey Crawford has looked great, but he has a grand total of 32 games NHL experience. If Patric Hornqvist, Joel Ward, et al. can go to the net and provide traffic, he'll be susceptible to goals against.
  • It's hard to overstate how important tonight and tomorrow's games are. Not only are the points at stake, but so too, in a way, is the Predators' ability to prove themselves. Yep, they just won six games in a row. Yep, they beat the Ducks, Kings, and Sharks in succession. But can they flip the switch to "on" when the situation calls for it? We find out this weekend.
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