Blackhawks News

Game Preview: Blackhawks vs Nashville Predators 3/25/12

By Greg Boysen

6:30 PM United Center, Chicago IL

TV: NBC Sports Network

Radio: 720 AM WGN

Tonight will feel like the playoffs in the United Center as the Nashville Predators come to town.  This is a huge game for both teams as they are battling it out with the Detroit Red Wings for the 4th seed in the Western Conference.  As of now, the Wings have the 4th seed with 95 points, followed by the Preds with 94 and the Hawks with 92.  The last time we saw the Preds, they beat the Hawks 3-2 to hand them their 9th straight loss.  That seems like light years ago, but hopefully the Blackhawks have not forgotten that 3 of those 9 losses came to Nashville.  The Preds have added some new faces since then by acquiring defenseman Hal Gill and forward Sergei Kostitsyn before the trade deadline.  They also just reacquired the services of Alexander Radulov who spent the last 4 years playing in the KHL.  Some writers around the league would make you think that Radulov is the Russian Wayne Gretzky.  I think he will be in for a major wake up call, since nothing he could have experienced in the KHL can match the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Pikke Rinne made 24 saves in a 3-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets last night.  I would expect Rinne to get the start again tonight with so much riding on the line.  The Predators have one of the top power play units in the league converting on 21.5 % of their chances this season.  The Blackhawks, who will be short handed as it is, must stay out of the box if they want a chance at a win.  Rookie Craig Smith and Patric Hornqvist have each scored 3 goals against the Hawks this year.  David Legwand has 6 points (1G, 5A) versus Chicago so far this season as well.

Tonight is the first game of Duncan Keith’s 5 game suspension for his hit to Thing #2 of the Vancouver Canucks.  It looks like Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarrson will be the top pair tonight.  Hjammer and Seabs have some experience together and should be fine.  Johnny Oduya will remain with Nick Leddy who have grown into a very solid pairing.  Sean O’Donnell will return to the lineup and be paired with rookie Dylan Olsen.  Help could be on the way very soon since Steve Montador has been cleared for contact and could be returning any day now.  Marcus Kruger will miss tonight’s game due to a hit he took from Ryan Kesler in last Wednesday’s game.  Brendan Morrison will take his spot on the second line.  Morrison is more than overdue to show us why Stan Bowman went out and acquired him back in early February.  The red hot Corey Crawford gets the start in net tonight who has struggled against the Preds this year.  He is 1-2 with a 3.80 GAA and a .857 save % in 3 starts against Nashville.  Look for Patrick Kane to continue his hot streak tonight as he loves the big games.  Maybe he can give his buddy Barry Trotz a wink after he scores a goal or two tonight.  This will be an intense battle and a great game, can not wait for the puck drop!