(SportsNetwork.com) – The Nashville Predators will attempt to claim a share of
first place in the Central Division on Monday when they visit the Chicago
Blackhawks for a showdown at United Center.
A regulation win by Nashville tonight would put the Blackhawks and Predators
in a tie for the division lead at 50 points apiece, but the latter club owns
the current tiebreaker due to having played two fewer games.
The Blackhawks, however, have won two of three meetings against Nashville this
season and tonight’s matchup marks the season series finale. The Preds are
4-1-1 over the last six meetings against Chicago, but the Blackhawks have won
four of the past six tilts in the Windy City.
Nashville enters tonight having won four of its last five games and Peter
Laviolette’s club emerged from the Christmas break with Saturday’s 4-1 home
victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. It was Laviolette’s first game against
the Flyers since he was fired as the club’s head coach just three games into
the 2013-14 season.
The Predators dominated the Flyers in the special teams’ battle, converting
three of five power-play opportunities while killing off all four of
Philadelphia’s chances with the man advantage.
Nashville cashed in when Matt Read and Claude Giroux were sent off 26 seconds
apart in the latter portion of the second period for the Flyers. The Predators
scored twice in a span of 38 seconds to go up by a 3-1 count.
“That was big,” said Laviolette. “I thought that the 5-on-3 we had lots of
looks, lots of attempts. The 5-on-4 goal, to come back and get one right
after, that was really important.”
Pekka Rinne stopped 26 shots for the win and Colin Wilson scored twice for the
Preds. Filip Forsberg and Mike Fisher each had a goal and an assist.
Prior to Saturday, Nashville had gone 2-for-48 at home (4.2 percent) while
skating with the extra man but finished 3-for-5.
“It’s nice getting (the power play) going,” Wilson said. “We need confidence
in our power play. Hopefully it gets us going.”
Chicago also posted a win Saturday, notching a 5-2 triumph in Colorado behind
a three-point night from Patrick Kane.
Kane tallied two goals and an assist to help the Blackhawks bounce back from
Tuesday’s 5-1 home loss against Winnipeg. Brandon Saad, Brent Seabrook and
Patrick Sharp all scored and Jonathan Toews supplied two assists for the
Blackhawks, who went 2-for-4 on the power play while stopping all three of
Colorado’s opportunities with the man advantage.
Corey Crawford turned aside 23-of-25 shots for the win.
“We knew it wouldn’t be easy,” Toews said. “We just came out and played the
right type of game.”
The Blackhawks had won eight straight on home ice before Winnipeg dealt them
their first setback at United Center since Nov. 7 against Washington. Chicago
boasts a 12-4-1 mark at home, where it will play three of its next four games.
Nashville, which plays at home tomorrow night against St. Louis, is 10-7-1 as
the visiting team in 2014-15.
Crawford is expected to start tonight for Chicago. He is 8-7-1 with a 2.69
goals against average against the Predators.
Rinne has started 30 of 34 games for Nashville this season, but backup
Carter Hutton could give him a breather tonight or Tuesday. Rinne is 14-11-3
with a 2.49 GAA in his career against Chicago and is 15-12-4 with a 2.15 GAA
versus the Blues.