Predators @ Blackhawks Preview: The Battle For Bronze

After a long stretch of winning hockey, the Nashville Predators finally have the chance to catch one of the teams ahead of them in the Central Division, as a regulation victory in Chicago tonight would lift them past the Blackhawks into 3rd place (St. Louis stays ahead because of fewer games played and more Regulation/Overtime Wins regardless of their outcome tonight). The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. Central on FS-TN.

Follow after the jump for a quick preview...

Tale Of The Tape

None today, sorry. For info on the Blackhawks, I encourage a stroll through Second City Hockey.

Chicago Blackhawks

First off, I highly recommend reading today's edition of The Committed Indian, a magnificent bit of work that the Second City guys put together for every Chicago home game:

The Committed Indian 2012-01-24 (PDF)

The big news for the Blackhawks is that captain Jonathon Toews will not play tonight due to injury. This, from ESPN.com:

Toews apparently injured his hand in Friday's 3-1 win over Florida but finished the game. He left Saturday's 5-2 loss to Nashville midway through the contest and did not return. Quenneville said there was no "defining blow" that caused the injury.

Quenneville expects Toews to be ready to return after the All-Star break when the Hawks play the Canucks on Jan. 31 in Vancouver."It's not serious," Quenneville said.

"We have some time off. Have some extra days there," Quenneville said. "Hopefully he gets some rest. We'll get a better assessment after (the break) "

There's still a monster to deal with up front, however, the guy who broke free for both of Chicago's goals against Nashville on Saturday night:


Marian Hossa

#81 / Right Wing / Chicago Blackhawks

6-1

210

Jan 12, 1979



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
SOG PCT
2011 - Marian Hossa 48 20 32 52 +24 16 7 2 2 164 12.1

Can the Predators keep him under control when Joel Quenneville has the advantage of the last line change before faceoffs?

On the other hand, Kevin Klein has to be drooling in anticipation:

Corey Crawford knows that the bouncing goal he allowed from center ice in the Blackhawks' loss ­Saturday to the Nashville Predators doesn't inspire a lot of confidence.

But coach Joel Quenneville continues to have confidence in him. Crawford will start when the Hawks host the Predators on Tuesday at the United Center.

"He's fine," Quenneville said. "I think everybody lets in a funny one over time. You've got to move past it and learn from it."

Crawford's sophomore season has had plenty of highs and lows. But getting pulled for the third time this season Saturday has to be the lowest. Defenseman Kevin Klein's goal from center ice was on the NHL.com home page long ­after the Hawks arrived home from Nashville.

Nashville Predators

It looks like Pekka Rinne will get the start tonight, and with a week off to rest up, that makes sense. The interesting battle is to see who gets to play and who watches from the pressbox. The addition of Brandon Yip to the roster has created a competition for 4th-line duty. Matt Halischuk scored a goal yesterday after Saturday's scratch, so does he stay in? Could another young forward like Gabriel Bourque get the ziggy instead, or does Yip need to do more work before earning a regular spot?

Meanwhile, there have been a number of Preds lighting up the scoresheet with consistency of late, but look who's taken over the team scoring lead? None other than the $6 Million Man:


Martin Erat

#10 / Left Wing / Nashville Predators

6-0

201

Aug 29, 1981



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
SOG PCT
2011 - Martin Erat 41 11 24 35 3 16 2 1 3 63 17.4

The issue with Marty, as always, is making sure he keeps up the tempo, and doesn't disappear for weeks or months at a time like we've seen before. A bit of rest during the All-Star break is hopefully the perfect tonic to keep him chugging down the back half of the campaign, because when he's on like this, it's a sight to behold.


Central Standings

GP W L OTL PTs
Detroit 49 33 15 1 67
St. Louis 48 29 13 6 64
Chicago 49 29 14 6 64
Nashville 49 29 16 4 62
Columbus 48 13 29 6 32

(updated 1.24.2012 at 9:04 AM CST)

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