(SportsNetwork.com) – The Nashville Predators are out to prove they are the
team to beat in the Central Division.
A victory over the rival Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday would match a
franchise record as well.
Nashville takes aim at an eighth straight home victory as it battles Chicago
for the third time this season.
The Predators hold the top spot in the Central Division with 36 points, one
more than the Blackhawks and two ahead of the St. Louis Blues. The Winnipeg
Jets, meanwhile, are only four points out of first place, making the division
one of the tightest in the league.
Nashville has won five of its past six overall and extended its home winning
streak with Thursday’s 4-3 win over St. Louis. Mike Ribeiro scored his third
goal in as many games and Colin Wilson had the eventual game-winner with a
breakaway goal in the third period.
Ribeiro added two assists and Filip Forsberg and Eric Nystrom also scored,
while Pekka Rinne ended with 29 saves.
“Both teams are pretty even,” said Predators forward Mike Fisher. “All the
games have been real intense and hard fought. It’s fun winning those ones you
can pull out.”
The Preds are 11-1-1 at home and a victory tonight would match the longest
home winning streak in team history that was set from Jan. 6-Feb. 8, 2007.
Rinne figures to get the start and is 14-10-3 in his career versus the
Blackhawks with a 2.51 goals against average and .918 save percentage.
The Preds and ‘Hawks have split two meetings this season, with each team
picking up a win at home. Nashville has won five of the last seven encounters
between the teams and three of four played in Nashville.
Chicago begins a four-game road trip tonight after topping the visiting
Montreal Canadiens 4-3 on Friday night.
The Habs had grabbed the lead with a two-goal second period, but Jonathan
Toews’ power-play goal 4:18 into the third tied the game and Brandon Saad
netted the winning score with 27 seconds left to play.
Toews also notched an assist and both Ben Smith and Michal Rozsival scored to
extend Chicago’s winning streak to a season-high five straight games. It also
has won eight of nine.
“You don’t really want it to go that way, where you have to come up with big
third periods, but we’re finding ways to win games,” Smith said. “You have to
be happy about that. It’s definitely something to work on there in the second
[periods], finding ways to stay consistent in our game. It’s always nice to
come back in the third though.”
Antti Raanta made 38 saves as he filled in again for the injured Corey
Crawford (foot). Backup Scott Darling could spell Raanta tonight and the
rookie is 2-1-0 with a 1.98 GAA and .933 save percentage in three career