|Nashville Predators||Chicago Blackhawks|
|5-on-5 Close SF/60||29.7||13th||32.8||4th|
|5-on-5 Close SA/60||27.2||5th||26.3||3rd|
|5-on-5 Close Save %||.908||27th||.928||10th|
|# of PP's/Gm||3.03||28th||3.20||21st|
|# of PK's/Gm||2.97||3rd||3.17||11th|
The Blackhawks are primarily concerned with fine-tuning the team for playoff performance these days, and Patrick Kane's recent injury forces the team to see how the rest of the forwards can step up in his absence. So far, so good on that count: they shut out St. Louis 4-0 during the game Kane left and followed that up with a 3-2 victory over Carolina, in which Chicago did not allow a shot on goal by the Hurricanes for the last 9:40 of the game.
That's impressive two-way hockey, and speaks to the Blackhawks' status as more than just a high-scoring bunch. Sure, they could end up the season with three or four 30-goal scorers in their lineup, but they also play some of the tightest defense in the league and enjoy above-average goaltending, too.
A six-goal game like we saw last time out leaves a positive vibe in the air, which is nice, and it looks like Calle Jarnkrok will get another crack at NHL action, as he's still on the roster after a fine effort in his big-league debut. As we consider how the Nashville Predators can work towards a more successful 2014-15 season, what we see out of Iron Hook can help inform the organization's plans for this summer's trade & free agency market.
Will Jarnkrok play a prime-time role on the next edition of the Preds? How about Filip Forsberg? Those questions and many more will keep us busy for the rest of 2014, and what we're seeing now are the opening moments of what could be the next chapter in Predators history.
While the on-again off-again offense broke out in major fashion Friday night at Calgary, the major challenge currently for Nashville is in goal, where Pekka Rinne has given up 13 goals over his last three games. Oh, and he's facing the top offense in the NHL tonight.
Check back later for the 6:00 p.m. Central faceoff, and let's see if the Preds can follow up on their last visit to the United Center, a 3-2 triumph over the Blackhawks on March 14...