The Predators and Blackhawks meet for the third time this season, the first of two games between the two teams this month at the United Center. The Blackhawks are still one of the very best teams in the league, while the Predators are just trying to get into April with more wins than regulation losses. You know, for morale's sake.
|Nashville Predators||Chicago Blackhawks|
|5-on-5 Close SF/60||29.8||13th||32.8||4th|
|5-on-5 Close SA/60||27.0||4th||26.3||3rd|
|5-on-5 Close Save %||.907||28th||.925||15th|
|# of PP's/Gm||3.02||29th||3.21||20th|
|# of PK's/Gm||3.06||4th||3.11||7th|
The Chicago Blackhawks
The Central division crown is still up for grabs, and even if no one makes a big deal about it I'm sure it's still something the Hawks would like to have. The Blues have a five point cushion on the lead, and Colorado is currently a point up. The Avalanche have given the Blackhawks fits this year, beating them again on Wednesday night during a thrilling game at Pepsi Center. Chicago doesn't have an easy schedule coming up by any means, but it's also not as difficult as some of the other teams out there. The division will probably go to St. Louis, but I wouldn't put it past the Hawks to make a play for it.
Rookie Antti Rannta got the goaltending start in Denver, so look for Corey Crawford to make his 48th appearance of the year. Crawford's numbers aren't as good as they were last season (a career year) but they are still the second best he's ever had. On the season he has a .918% with a 2.27 GAA. It should be a fantastic showdown on either side of the ice.
The Nashville Predators
Want to feel depressed? Six players on Chicago's roster have more total points than Shea Weber, who leads the Predators. During their recent four game losing streak the Predators only scored three goals.
In their last two games they have doubled that output. To say they are going to need to keep up that pace is underselling it, because the Hawks boast the most potent offense in the league.
There are three players to keep an eye on tonight: Craig Smith, Colin Wilson and Nick Spaling. Smith is self explanatory, but Wilson has had a tremendous few games recently. There are plenty of people out there waiting for him to fall back down and disappear again. As far as I'm concerned, he's a player to watch every game for the rest of the season before we can really dissect how/if his game has changed. Spaling is just reaping the benefits of a high shooting percentage, which I am completely OK with.
Pekka Rinne will presumably gets his first crack at the Blackhawks this season tonight. Lifetime, Rinne sports a .917% and 2.56 GAA in 24 games against Chicago.
This game returns to the normal 7 p.m. CST slot. The last time the Preds played at United Center, yours truly had one of the worst seats in the house. It wasn't even a seat, I had to stand six stories above the ice, but you can't beat $18 tickets a few hours before the game. Five down, 25 to go!