Dec 17, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) and Chicago Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw (65) try to control the puck \during the first period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mike Strasinger-USA TODAY Sports
Wednesday night’s disappointing loss, to the Colorado Avalanche, has the Chicago Blackhawks down to 3rd place, in the Central Division, after being in 1st or 2nd, most of the season. With 16 games remaining, in the regular season, a loss to the Nashville Predators could bring up at least talk of a slump, and a slump now could mean big trouble, for the Blackhawks, going into the postseason.
Let’s take a look at how both teams matchup.
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No surprise, the Blackhawks have the advantage, here. Traditionally, the Predators are a low-scoring team, but they are usually one of the most difficult teams to score against. That has not been the case, this season, wand it’s most mainly due to the injury to goaltender, Pekka Rinne. Nashville hasn’t scored a lot, this season, as usual, but they have also given up a lot of goals, this season, which is unusual, for them. Somehow, the Predators have one of the better Power Plays, in the NHL, but they will be facing the Blackhawks’ red-hot Penalty Kill, that has vastly improved, since January.
Nashville has been the best team, in the NHL, at taking faceoffs, this season, and they have been average, in puck possession. This is largely due to the fact that they don’t have many scoring threats, on their roster, and the fact that they are prone to turning the puck over. The Hawks have a big advantage, in this game, but the Preds have their quirks that make them a tricky team, as well.
The Predators are currently in 7th place, in the Central Division, with a record of 28-28-10, good for 66 points, on the season, and their playoff hopes, holding out for a miracle.
Nashville is lead in points, by defenseman, Shea Weber, who arguably possesses the hardest slapshot, in the entire NHL. After Weber, the rest of the Predators form a scoring by committee type of roster, while no one else has really put up exceptional offensive numbers, this season. Seth Jones, the rookie defenseman, with the extremely high-ceiling is one to watch out for, as he is able to move the puck effectively, and will only improve, with experience. Second-year, center, Craig Smith, leads all forwards, with 40 points, on the season.
In net, figures to be Pekka Rinne. As mentioned before, Rinne has been hurt, most of the season, and his absence has been a huge blow, to the Predators, this season. In only 13 games played, this season, Rinne has put up a great .918 save percentage.
The Blackhawks have slipped to 3rd place, in the Central Division. They are 7 points behind the 1st place St. Louis Blues and 1 point behind the 2nd place Colorado Avalanche, with all 3 three teams having 16 games to play, this season.
Captain Jonathan Toews has put up 7 career multi-point games, against Nashville, in 32 career games. Joining Toews, on the top-line, during morning skate, were Brandon Saad and Kris Versteeg. It looks like Peter Regin will be returning to the lineup, tonight, on the 3rd line, with Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell.
In net, it looks like Corey Crawford will be back, between the pipes. This season, Crawford has been very good, with a .918 save percentage, in 47 games played. This will be Crawford’s 200th career game, in the NHL.
Both teams will become very familiar, with one another, as the Central Division foes will face each other 3 times, in the final 16 games, of the season. The Blackhawks need a win, tonight, to avoid any warranted or unwarranted panic from themselves, or the fanbase, which is only natural to happen if they lose, tonight, against the last place Predators. Even though they are in last, the Predators are a tricky team, and the Hawks will be in trouble, if they look beyond them. There should be a sense of urgency, for the Hawks, as they should be starving to climb back up the ladder, of the Central Division.