All you Chicago Blackhawks fans remember Bridgestone Arena, I’m sure. It’s the home of the Nashville Predators, but more importantly it’s the location of a group of people that suffers from the worst case of little brother complex ever recorded.
Block out the red. Don’t sing the National Anthem. Require those outside of Tennessee to order tickets to other games if they want to attend a Blackhawks-Predators matchup. No matter what those at Bridgestone Arena try to do to keep Blackhawks fans from showing up, none of it works. There are always several thousand Blackhawks fans in attendance, red sweaters and all. And some of them still cheer during whatever song is sung prior to puck drop.
Instead of worrying about making a trip to Bridgestone Arena more appealing for everyone, those who run the Predators would rather take losses at the ticket booths, concession stands and other locations just so they can have 5,500 empty seats instead of 5,500 seats holding the butt of a Blackhawks fan. Frankly, it’s embarrassing. Thankfully, we have much bigger things to worry about than this, and it’s just something to laugh at when all is said and done.
But the Blackhawks will make their first trip to Bridgestone since Game 5 of the 2015 playoffs’ opening round. It’s the second game of the regular season between theses teams, with the Blackhawks pulling off a 4-1 win Tuesday in the first outing thanks to Corey Crawford standing on his head. Chicago won’t have that to fall back on tonight.
With that foreboding message, let’s get to the projected starting lineups, starting with the Blackhawks (courtesy the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus).
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Darling will return to the scene of the crime for the first time since it happened. That crime, of course, was him stoning Nashville for almost 68 minutes in relief in Game 1 of the 2015 quarterfinals, stopping all 42 shots he faced across three and a half periods of play. While he won’t see the exact same Predators squad he stared down in his playoff debut eight months ago, many of the familiar and key faces are still around, and they probably want to get to Darling worse than anyone.
The rest of the lineup remains the same for Chicago, despite giving up way too many chances that Crow needed to turn aside all night Tuesday. Marko Dano and Brandon Mashinter will continue to ride the proverbial pine, while Trevor Daley sits out his second consecutive game with an upper-body injury. It was good to hear Daley was involved in the morning skate today, so his return may not be far off. That’s for the best, as Rundblad was rough in his steed Tuesday.
On to the Predators, courtesy The Tennessean’s Adam Vingan.
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Blackhawks killer Colin Wilson was a late scratch Tuesday, and he remains out tonight with an injury. That draws in Salomaki once again, and he was very active two days ago on a frustrating fourth line — one which scored the only goal for Nashville. The other three lines had their chances for the Preds, but Crow was able to shut all of those down.
Of course, the threat of Nashville’s defensemen — mainly Weber and Josi — chipping in on offense is more of a concern for the Blackhawks right now. Josi leads the team in points, and Weber is tied for second. That’s all well and good, but it becomes an issue when the forwards corps is struggling as much as Nashville’s is.
The guess is Rinne gets the call again tonight, as the Preds aren’t in a back-to-back situation like the Blackhawks. He’s had a rough go of it lately, and the Blackhawks should look to get way more rubber at him than they did Tuesday, to see how much of it he can handle. Of course, despite his struggles, it should be noted Rinne can still steal a game.
Let’s look at three Blackhawks to watch tonight in Nashville.
Nov 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalieScott Darling
(33) blocks a shot on goal by Los Angeles Kings centerNick Shore
(21) in the third period of the game at Staples Center. Kings won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Crawford faced 37 shots Tuesday, and that was with the Blackhawks being able to dictate matchups and get last change. So, Darling could be under a lot of duress tonight. I’m not exactly expecting the Blackhawks’ defense to suddenly start preventing more shots, especially with one and a half defensemen playing, more or less. That means it’ll be up to Darling to be solid in net tonight to give the Blackhawks their best shot at two points. The two big things that’ll help with that: better rebound control and better positioning in and around the net. When Crow gives up rebounds, it’s usually part of the way he plays; he lets the puck take big ricochets off his pads so the Blackhawks’ skaters can play it directly. When Darling gives up rebounds, it’s usually not on purpose, and they’re often in more dangerous areas than Crow’s rebounds. He’ll need to clean that up tonight, as guys like Neal and Ribeiro will be hunting for the dirty goals. Also, Darling has the tendency to lose his net, especially when the opposition gets multiple chances on one possession. The Predators, with their active defensemen, will make him pay for that if he can’t tighten it up.
Dec 8, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks centerAndrew Shaw
(65) celebrates his goal with his teammates during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
An interesting quote from Captain Serious today:
Apparently, Shaw needed a bit of a fire lit under him. Or something. Regardless, he had a productive game on the offensive end Tuesday, and it’d be great to see that continue on the road tonight. His sticking with a play led to the first Blackhawks goal, as he collected a loose puck in the offensive zone and just put it on net, where Rasmussen was to tip home his first NHL goal. Then, Shaw took care of business on the powerplay, successfully converting a great pass from Teuvo. I was a little amazed he was able to do that so smoothly, as Shaw has managed to biff quite a few pretty scoring chances this season (many memorable ones playing with Toews on the top line). Shaw may have found his spot on the third line with Rasmussen and Bickell, so let’s see how that works out on the road. There’s a chance Joel Quenneville opts to shelter Shaw’s two partners down the stretch of this game, depending on how it’s playing out, so Shaw could see action in some other situations as well.
Sep 22, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defensemanDavid Rundblad
(5) warms up prior to the game against the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
*Deep breath* Rundblad was not good Tuesday. It’s easy to understand, considering he hadn’t played since October and is playing alongside Rozsival (though Rozsival certainly looks better than Rundblad right now). I know Rundblad isn’t going to see the ice much tonight unless the Blackhawks go up 20-1, but it’s still critical he tightens things up when he is out there. You know Peter Laviolette is going to send his most capable offensive players — Josi and Weber among them — on the ice whenever Rundblad’s skates touch it. He had a few solid moments Tuesday, like a stick deflection of a Nashville shot from between the circles and an assist on the powerplay (and he was out there a lot on the powerplay, leading the team in PP TOI with 3:05). But he was also caught out of position a lot on the defensive end, including on some plays that resulted in breakaway opportunities for the Preds. If Crow wasn’t as solid as he was, those could all have gone for goals. So Rundblad really needs to buckle down when he’s on the ice in 5-on-5 situations. But he doesn’t want to grip the stick tighter and worry about every move he makes. He just needs to relax and take the play as it comes.