Chicago Blackhawks @ Nashville Predators preview: Ryan's Hope

This is a big one, folks. The Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks have each played 60 games, and won 31 of them. The only difference is that among their 29 losses each, the Preds have managed to drag two more to overtime or the shootout, leaving them two points ahead of the defending Stanley Cup champs in what has become an 11-team race for 5 playoff spots in the Western Conference.

Tonight marks the final meeting between these division rivals during the regular season, with the Preds having gone 3-2-0 . Perhaps the best news heading into this one is that Chicago traded Jack Skille to Florida for Michael Frolik earlier this month. In the previous five games against Nashville, Skille racked up an absurd 4 goals and 1 assist (he's only got 7 goals all year, for crying out loud).

Follow after the jump for more...

Tickets remain for tonight's game against the Chicago Blackhawks, followed by the Columbus Blue Jackets Sunday afternoon, so take the OTF Discount and save money on Nashville Predators tickets for these, or any other home game!

Chicago Blackhawks

The big story with the Blackhawks is that we may see head coach Joel Quenneville back behind the bench after spending a few days in the hospital with an ulcer (and just think, he gets to watch guys like Toews, Kane and Hossa play each night).

Besides those big three, however, the Hawks are also enjoying a big season from Patrick Sharp, who leads the Hawks with 31 goals. As a team, they come in having won three out of their last four, including a 5-3 triumph over St. Louis on Monday.

In goal, Corey Crawford has stepped up in a way that free agent pickup Marty Turco just never did, putting up a significantly better save percentage than Antti Niemi did a year ago:


Corey Crawford

#50 / Goalie / Chicago Blackhawks

6-2

200

Dec 31, 1984



GP MIN W L OTL GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2010 - Corey Crawford 35 2073 20 12 3 75 2.17 949 874 .921 2

Nashville Predators

As for the Preds, we're hoping to see Ryan Suter and Sergei Kostitsyn return to the lineup, and hopefully restore a little offensive flow to a lineup that looked, well, pretty awful in that 3rd period in Columbus Tuesday night. According to Josh Cooper, Barry Trotz put some pressure on the team at practice yesterday, a session which was largely devoted to getting forwards to cross the blueline thinking "shoot first".

The other question will be whether Jonathon Blum gets another crack at NHL action. The media game notes list him on the roster (while Marek Svatos is not), which leaves the Preds at 22 active players, including 7 defensemen. So who will get scratched? Besides the obvious choice of Wade Belak, I could see a few candidates:

 

  • Shane O`Brien, who has had a few costly penalties lately. In his chat yesterday, Josh Cooper mentioned that he thought SOB might be fighting through a foot issue which is impeding his skating.
  • Alexander Sulzer, who watched from the press box for the opening months of the season.
  • Jonathon Blum, as low man on the depth chart.
Up front, I'd expect the two main scoring lines to remain Kostitsyn-Fisher-Erat and Sullivan-Legwand-Hornqvist based on the lines from practice, but of course Barry Trotz could shake things up coming off that disappointing loss in Columbus.

 

With Anders Lindback sent to Milwaukee for the time being, the burden in goal lies squarely on Pekka Rinne's shoulders, and he's consistently given the Preds a chance to win:


Pekka Rinne

#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators

6-5

207

Nov 03, 1982



GP MIN W L OTL GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2010 - Pekka Rinne 43 2522 21 16 6 90 2.14 1258 1168 .928 4
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