Mar 14, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) skates in on Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35) during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
This will be the 4th of 5 matchups between Central Division foes, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Nashville Predators, with Nashville winning 2 of the first 3 meetings. The most recent meeting was a 3-2 Predaotrs victory, just last week, a disappointing loss, for the 2nd place Blackhawks, to the last place Predators, so evening the series would also come with a bit of revenge, for the Blackhawks.
Let’s see how both teams matchup.
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Just like last week, the Blackhawks have a huge advantage, in this one. However, as last week’s 3-2 loss proved, this is the NHL and any team can beat any team, on any given day. The Hawks have significant advantages in overall offense and defense and slight advantages in special teams. Both teams are very good, on the Power Play, but the Hawks are just a bit better. Both teams are not so good, on the Penalty Kill, but the Hawks are slightly less bad, as their PK unit has been great, since the Olympic break.
The Predators are a better faceoff team, this season, but keeping the puck and creating scoring chances with it, hasn’t been as easy to come by, for them. The Hawks are both elite at winning faceoffs and keeping the puck, to create chances, with it.
Nashville is currently sitting in 7th place, in the Central Division, and are holding out hope for a miracle of miracles that they are able to somehow grab the final Wild Card spot, in the Western Conference, but their chances are slim to none. While their season outlook is rather bleak, the Predators are coming off a big, losing streak breaking, 6-5 victory, over the Calgary Flames, in their previous game.
Defenseman, Shea Weber leads the Predators, in points, and has a booming shot, from the blueline, and is a lethal weapon, on the Preds’ Power Play. Matt Cullen is coming off of a 4-point night, in the previous game, against Calgary. Craig Smith leads all Nashville forwards, in points, while Patric Hornqvist and Mike Fisher aren’t too far behind him.
In net, for the Predators, will likely be Pekka Rinne. Rinne, who missed most of the season, due to a hip infection has started to play well, in his return to the lineup, this month. Although the stats don’t exactly back it up, Rinne overall played well, since his return. He has a .909 save percentage, in 16 games played, this season.
The Blackhawks survived their first game without Patrick Kane, in the lineup, but tonight’s game, against Nashville will be a bit more challenging. Teuvo Teravainen watch is in full-swing, as it is very likely that tonight will be his first regular season game, of his NHL career. The Hawks will also be without the services of Brandon Saad and Bryan Bickell, so they will need other forwards to step-up their games. Jeremy Morin, who was called up, from Rockford, of the AHL, is looking to make some noise and find himself a spot, on the Hawks’ roster, going into the playoffs. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp have already done great deals of stepping up, in the absences of the previously mentioned forwards.
Toews scored a short-handed goal, in Friday’s victory, over the Carolina Hurricanes. Sharp, a known streaky scorer, could be on the verge of a hot-streak, as he scored his 30th goal, of the season; a feat Sharp has now done, 4 times, in his career.
In net, for the Hawks, will likely be Corey Crawford. Crawford has been great, this season, and has been exceptionally great, lately. This season, Crawford has put up a .919 save percentage, in 50 games played.
In order to win without so many key players, in their lineup, the Blackhawks will have to be creative, however the hunger for revenge, to keep the 3rd place Colorado Avalanche, in their rear view mirror, and for the chance of closing the gap, between them and the 1st place, St. Louis Blues, should be enough motivation to get revenge, on the Predators.