Feb, 14 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators left wing Nick Spaling (13) and Chicago Blackhawks right wing Jamal Mayers (22) face off during the second period at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators beat the Blackhawks 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
Game # 12- Chicago Blackhawks(9-0-2, 20 points) Vs. Nashville Predators(5-2-4, 14 points)
Game time- 7:00 PM Central Time
Radio- WGN 720 AM
Preview- This will be the first meeting of the season between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Nashville Predators. The Blackhawks are looking to wrap up their season long 6-game road trip with a win tonight against their division-rival, Predators. The Hawks have made hockey look easy on this road trip, but things are never easy against Nashville.
The Predators currently sit in second place in the Central Division, 6 points behind the Blackhawks, they can make up some serious ground with a win tonight. Stingy on defense, and frustrating to opposing offenses, the Predators can be Kyrptonite to Hawks dynamic offense, as they have been at times in the past. The Predators lost were in Minnesota last night, as they lost to the Wild 2-1 in Overtime. It will be interesting to see how fresh their legs will be after that game and a late night flight back to Nashville last night, as the Hawks had the night off in Nashville last night.
Nashville is lead more by their players’ defensive skills rather than their point production, as they are ranked 26th in the league in Goals Per Game(2.10 goals) and 1st in the league with the lowest average of Goals Allowed Per Game(1.80 goals). Shea Weber, the Predators’ well-paid defenseman, is off to a bit of a slow start offensively, but his powerful shot from the blueline is always a force to be reckoned with. The Predators’ points leader is long-time Right-Wing, Martin Erat along with Center, Colin Wilson.
The dynamic goaltender, Pekka Rinne, will be in between the pipes in tonight’s game. Rinne appears to be the latest in what essentially is Nashvilles “goaltender farm” as they always seem to produce strong goaltenders in their minor-league system. This could also be a result of long-time(and the only in the history of the franchise) head coach Barry Trotz’s tradition of teams built on trapping defensive teams, and little offense. Regardless, Rinne has been great as the Predators’ net-minder.
The Blackhawks look to end their already guaranteed successful road trip on a high-note tonight in Nashville. The Hawks will be well-rested, since the have been off since their Thursday night domination against the Phoenix Coyotes. The Hawks have been lighting the lamp at a rapid pace this season with an outstanding average of 3.46 Goals Per Game, good for 2nd best in the NHL. They are solid defensively also, with a 2.09 Goals Against Per game, which is good for 6th best in the league. The Blackhawks most impressive feature this season has got to be their shutdown Penalty Kill. The Chicago Penalty Killers are killing 92.7% of opponents Power Plays, the best percentage in the league.
The rapid lamp lighting and explosive offense has been lead by Right Winger, Patrick Kane, who is off to the best start of his career, and leads his team in points. Marian Hossa continues to show no ill-affects from his nasty concussion received in last years post-season, as he is playing at a point per game pace, and is arguably the Hawks’ best two-way forward. Jonathan Toews is ranked 4th in the NHL in faceoff wins, and also is producing at a point per game pace, along with Patrick Sharp.
Corey Crawford looks to get the start in net tonight in Nashville. He should be very well-rested as he has not played since Tuesday night in San Jose. Crawford continues to have an excellent bounce-back season this year, and looks to continue that by helping the Hawks put some space between them and the rest of the Central Division.
The Blackhawks and Predators always seem to have very competitive contests, and this one looks to be no different, as this game has a great impact on the standings and possible playoff implications, especially in a shortened season.