|Chicago Blackhawks||Nashville Predators|
|5-on-5 Close SF/60||32.7||4th||29.4||16th|
|5-on-5 Close SA/60||26.0||3rd||26.7||4th|
|5-on-5 Close Save %||.925||14th||.910||28th|
|# of PP's/Gm||3.15||22nd||2.90||29th|
|# of PK's/Gm||3.02||6th||2.90||4th|
With both Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the shelf due to injury, the Blackhawks are coasting down the stretch and hoping to enter the playoffs as healthy as they can, so don't be surprised if a number of regulars get rested tonight in favor of minor league call-ups. The Hawks come into tonight's game on the heels of a 4-0 loss at Washington yesterday, so they have the whole back-to-back factor working as well.
Ultimately, that question of whether Kane & Toews are ready for postseason play will prove critical to Chicago's title defense hopes. They're firmly slotted for 3rd place in the Central Division, with the only uncertainty being who they'll meet in the first round - Colorado & St. Louis boast identical 52-22-7 records with one game left to play.
The Preds gave the home fans a treat on Thursday by shutting out the Phoenix Coyotes, cementing Pekka Rinne's spot as the winningest goalie in franchise history. So what's on the line tonight? Just pride, really, but but this team does have that, as we've seen them play well down the stretch rather than fold up the tent. Surely, some players are motivated to try and do their best for Barry Trotz, who by all accounts is popular with his charges but is currently feeling much of the heat in the media.
As for me, I'll stick with what I wrote back in December - while Trotz can take some criticism for the lack of in-house development of scoring forwards, the bulk of the blame for the team's performance this year rests at the desk of David Poile.
But for tonight, enjoy the final home game of the 2013-14 season, try to ignore the thousands of Blackhawks fans who are expected to be in attendance (so much for Keeping the Red Out), and keep an eye on the road ahead - the performances we see in games like these could help determine how the pieces will fit together in the fall.