The Chicago Blackhawks return to the scene of the crime tonight. A trip back to the Bridgestone Arena, where this 8 game losing streak started, for a Valentine’s date with the Nashville Predators. With all the hearts floating around today I would to see some out of the Blackhawks tonight. This losing streak has to end and in a hurry! Tonight is a perfect night to stop the bleeding and gain 2 points on one of the teams the Hawks are chasing.
The Predators come into tonight on a bit of a slump too. They have lost their last three games, but have gained 2 points with shootout loses in that span. I really hate rewarding teams for losses just because they are in OT or a shootout. You lost, you shouldn’t get a point because it took you more time to lose. But that’s an argument for another day.
Nashville’s top line of Martin Erat, Mike (Mr. Underwood) Fisher, and Sergei Kostitsyn has been killing it lately. Erat and Kostitsyn have combined for 35 points in their last 18 games. Fisher has recorded 8 goals in the last 8 Nashville games. This line must be licking their chops to go against the Blackhawks short handed blueline. Patrick Hornqvist and David Legwand have been killing the Blackhawks , both registering 5 points in the 3 meetings so far this season. The Blackhawks will have to deal with Pikka Rinne, who in my mind is the best goalie in the league right now. Rinne is 2-0-1, with a 2.64 goals against average and a .902 save percentage in 3 starts against the Hawks this year.
Coach Q has gone back to the lineup blender to see what it spits out for tonight. The top line will be loaded with Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane on the wings for Jonathan Toews. This trio had some success last season when it was together, but I would rather see Sharpie as the 2nd center. This line can exploit the rather weak 2nd and 3rd defensive pairings of Nashville with their speed and skill. The second line combo of Andrew Brunette, Marcus Kruger and Marian Hossa could work with Brunette’s good hands and vision and Kruger’s ability to get the net. The Blackhawks need Hossa to show up. It’s not coincidence that the Hawks have struggled at the same time #81 has disappeared. Q has decided to pretty much go with 11 forwards by playing John Scott on the 4th line tonight. I know Brendan Morrison and Michael Frolik are giant sacks of bad hockey right now, but do we really need Scott’s 3 minutes of ice time? Combo that with Steve Montador and Niklas Hjalmarrson missing tonight’s game too and this could be ugly. It’s Ray Emery’s turn on the Blackhawks goalie merry-go-round tonight. The Blackhawks can not afford to play from behind tonight, so an early goal would be huge. This streak has to end, no better place than where it all began.