Blackhawks aim for third straight win in home test vs. Preds

( - The Chicago Blackhawks hope to gain ground in the Central Division title race on Sunday as the defending Stanley Cup champions host the Nashville Predators at United Center.

Chicago enters Sunday trailing the first-place St. Louis Blues by four points in the Central. The Blues, who hold a game in hand over the Blackhawks, are also in action today in Pittsburgh. Colorado, meanwhile, is three points behind the Blackhawks for second place, but the Avalanche are off until Tuesday's game in Nashville.

The Blackhawks began a four-game homestand with a 4-0 win over St. Louis on Wednesday and followed two nights later with a close victory against Carolina. Chicago had lost three of four games heading into the stay at United Center, but now holds a 23-6-7 record on home ice after beating the Blues and Hurricanes.

Captain Jonathan Toews scored a tie-breaking short-handed goal in the third period to help the Blackhawks edge Carolina, 3-2, on Friday. Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg each had second-period goals for the Blackhawks

Corey Crawford made 26 saves for Chicago, giving the goaltender wins in three straight outings.

"Had a really strong game. He did all the right things," Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said about Crawford.

Chicago played its first game without Patrick Kane on Friday. Earlier in the day, the star forward was placed on long-term injured reserve with a lower- body ailment suffered in Wednesday's win over St. Louis. Kane, who has 69 points in 69 games in 2013-14, is expected to miss the remainder of the regular season.

Blackhawks forwards Bryan Bickell and Brandon Saad are questionable for Sunday's game as is defenseman Michal Rozsival.

While Chicago is trying to chase down the Blues for the division title, Nashville is teetering on the brink of playoff elimination. The Predators enter Sunday nine points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference with just 11 games remaining on their schedule.

Nashville halted an 0-3-0 slide with a win in Friday's wild game at Calgary. Matt Cullen scored what proved to be the game-winner with 2:52 to play and added three assists as the Preds survived to post a 6-5 decision against the Flames.

Shea Weber scored twice, Patric Hornqvist had a goal and two assists while Viktor Stalberg and Victor Bartley also lit the lamp for the Predators.

Pekka Rinne gave up four goals on 18 shots before being pulled in the second period for Carter Hutton, who stopped 10-of-11 shots the rest of the way for the win.

"You probably wouldn't expect going into tonight there would be 11 goals scored," said Cullen. "Both teams played hard and both teams have a lot of pride. It was an entertaining game.

Nashville can earn a split of a four-game road trip with another win on Sunday. The Predators are just 15-14-6 as the visiting team this season.

The Predators entered 2013-14 on a six-game series losing streak against Chicago, but has taken two of the first three encounters this season. That includes a 3-2 regulation decision in the Windy City on March 14. Rinne stopped 31-of-33 shots to anchor the victory for Nashville, which halted a three-game skid in Chicago.