The Chicago Blackhawks will shoot for their longest winning streak in over a year when they host the rival Nashville Predators for tonight's Central Division clash at the United Center.
The Blackhawks have posted five straight wins to a tie a season-high for consecutive victories, but Chicago hasn't win six in a row since an eight-game tear from Feb. 20-March 5 of last season.
Every win it can get down the stretch will help Chicago in the battle for playoff positioning. The Blackhawks enter today's action as the sixth seed in the West and is trailing Nashville by just two points for the fifth seed. Idle Detroit is also just one point in front of the Predators for the fourth spot.
Nashville, which won for just the second time in six games on Saturday, hopes it can shake its recent funk with a matchup against the Blackhawks, who have lost three straight to the Predators since opening this season's series with an overtime win on Oct. 31. Nashville has claimed six of 10 overall in this matchup, but has lost in four of its last six trips to the Windy City.
Beginning with tonight's contest, the Blackhawks will not have top defenseman and former Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith for the next five games. Keith was handed a five-game suspension on Friday for elbowing Vancouver's Daniel Sedin in the head on Wednesday.
Keith leads all Chicago defenseman with 40 points in 72 games this season. He is also first on the team with an average of 26 minutes, 53 seconds of ice time per game.
Chicago has also played the last 15 games without captain Jonathan Toews, who hopes to be close to returning from a concussion. Toews has been skating with the team, but there is still no timetable for his return to game action.
The Blackhawks should be well-rested for tonight's game, having been off since Wednesday's 2-1 overtime victory against visiting Vancouver. Andrew Shaw scored the game-winning goal 2:42 into overtime for Chicago.
Patrick Kane scored in regulation and Corey Crawford made 24 saves in the victory for the Blackhawks.
"It's the right time to peak," Kane said. "A couple of weeks ago we were fighting for a playoff spot and hoping that we were going to get in any way possible. It looks pretty bright right now, but we have to keep winning, keep playing the right way and see how high we can get."
Chicago has won three straight on home ice and is 26-7-5 as the host this season.
The Predators had lost two straight and four of five before posting a 3-1 win over the visiting Winnipeg Jets on Saturday. Matt Halischuk and Gabriel Bourque tallied in the second period for Nashville and Shea Weber added an empty-netter to seal the game with 10 seconds left in the third.
Pekka Rinne stopped 24-of-25 shots and earned his 40th victory of the season.
"It's nice to get two points until we go on a tough four-game stretch," Predators defenseman Kevin Klein said.
The Predators, who are 19-15-3 as the guest this season, are opening a three- game road trip tonight and will also visit St. Louis and Chicago during the swing. Nashville will then meet the Blackhawks again at home on March 31.