There's little time to stew over last night's disappointing effort in Dallas, as the Preds return to the Sommet Center tonight for the first Central Division battle of the season, against the high-flying Chicago Blackhawks.
There are two important notes for fans coming to tonight's game. First, there will be a celebration of Steve Sullivan's Masterton Trophy (including free posters for the first 10,000), and there's also a baby supply drive being conducted tonight to support the Martha O'Bryan Center, so bring donations to drop off on your way in.
If you don't have tickets yet for the Predators vs. the Blackhawks, follow this link and use the offer code "PREDS" for a special discount. While you're at it, take the money you save and buy some baby supplies to bring to the arena.
Now... on to the matchup!
Meet the Enemy
The Blackhawks are coming into town after having played last night as well, a 4-3 win at home over the Edmonton Oilers. With a 4-1-1 record, they've been able to overcome shoddy goaltending with outstanding offense. I know this sounds like cheating, but 12 different Blackhawks have already scored goals this season, led by Patrick Sharp with 5.
They've had an eventful off-season, to say the least between all the front-office drama, the trade for Marian Hossa and his subsequent shoulder surgery, and of course the infamous Patrick Kane incident in Buffalo. Check out Second City Hockey's season preview for all you need to catch up on our rivals from the Windy City.
Per Second City Hockey, the Chicago lines look as follows:
Meet the Good Guys
What are we going to see in terms of line combinations tonight? With Santorelli sent down to Milwaukee, Cal O'Reilly called up, and J.P. Dumont back in action, it would appear that things are, shall we say, "fluid" at the moment.
I'm not even going to speculate on lines, that's what I have you guys for! Sound off in the comments...
Even Strength Play
Chicago holds a 15-13 scoring advantage in even strength action, while the Preds are (gulp) getting outscored 11-5. ugh.
Chicago PP vs. Nashville PK
The Blackhawks are off to a good start on the power play, having converted 6 of 24 chances so far. Since they allowed 2 PP goals to Dallas, the Preds have sunk to 24th in the league, with a 68.4% PK rate. Double-ugh.
Nashville PP vs. Chicago PK
The Preds have now slipped to 1-for-17 on the power play, and haven't scored with the man advantage since 1:48 into the opening game. So much for the notion that having Steve Sullivan available from the start of training camp would lead to significant change on that front (at least so far...). The Chicago PK has killed 16 of 20 chances (80%), an average NHL success rate. Triple-ugh.
#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators
Nov 03, 1982
|2009 - Pekka Rinne||3||132||0||2||8||3.64||74||66||.892||0|
The announced plan from earlier this week was that Pekka Rinne would get tonight's start, but does the fact that he played almost the whole game last night change that?
#39 / Goalie / Chicago Blackhawks
Sep 03, 1975
|2009 - Cristobal Huet||4||195||1||1||12||3.69||71||59||.831||0|
The Blackhawks are probably feeling a bit of buyer's remorse after signing Christobal Huet to a major contract in the summer of 2008. He failed to seize the #1 job last season, and has been outperformed by Finnish rookie Antti Niemi in the six Chicago games so far. It must have been a slap in the face for Huet when Edmonton came to town last night, and he didn't get the chance to play in a highly anticipated matchup against the prior #1 in Chicago, Nikolai Khabibulin.
Will the return of Dumont motivate the Preds to a stronger, more disciplined performance tonight? When things get chaotic, a strong shock needs to be delivered, and what this team needs tonight is a dynamic game by their leadership (Sullivan-Arnott-Dumont-Weber-Suter), along with a workmanlike, hard-nosed effort by the supporting cast. If there's a motto for tonight, it should be "No Passengers Allowed".