Blackhawks host Preds without Toews

As tight as the Central Division is, the two points that is Star break could be as big as they come.

The Blackhawks won't have their captain for this key meeting though as Jonathan Toews will sit out Chicago's second meeting with Nashville in three days because of an upper-body injury.

Toews was hurt in Saturday's 5-2 loss at Nashville, logging 15 shifts and just under 10 minutes of ice time. Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville said on Monday that though the injury isn't serious, Toews won't play tonight and he added that his captain's status for the All-Star game is "not likely."

Toews, who is day-to-day, leads Chicago with 27 goals and is second on the club with 50 points.

"Not only is he playing great this year, but he's such a big part of our team down the middle," said Chicago's Patrick Kane of Toews. "You really have a solidified centerman with him in the lineup. With him missing it kind of opens up a lot of holes and some guys are definitely going to have to step up."

Chicago was also without winger Patrick Sharp on Saturday for a seventh straight game due to a wrist injury. Sharp has logged 20 goals and 40 points on the season.

One player Chicago can seem to count on in the absence of two of its top players is Marian Hossa, who has a team-leading 52 points and scored twice in Saturday's loss to reach the 20-goal plateau for the 12th straight season. Hossa has totaled three goals and seven assists over an eight-game point streak.

Corey Crawford, though, was pulled from net after allowing four goals on 17 shots in less than two periods of action versus the Predators over the weekend. Ray Emery made five saves in relief for a Chicago club that was coming off a perfect three-game homestand and now returns to the United Center looking to win a sixth straight game as the host.

"It's not going to get any easier. We battled hard. We still had a chance tonight, I think we hit at least four posts tonight," said Crawford following his 100th career game.

Nashville chased Crawford from the game with a three-goal second period, getting tallies from Kevin Klein, Colin Wilson and Sergei Kostitsyn in the frame. Pekka Rinne made 20 saves as the Predators beat the Blackhawks for the second time in the past six meetings.

Nashville has also lost three straight and seven of its past nine in Chicago, but comes into this rematch rolling following last night's 4-1 win over Columbus. It was the Predators' third straight win as well as their 11th in the past 13 games overall.

That run has pulled the Preds to within two points of both the 'Hawks and Blues for second place in the division. Chicago and St. Louis, which have 64 points each, trail Detroit by three for first place in the division and overall NHL standings.

Mike Fisher scored twice in Monday night's win, giving him four goals and seven assists in his past nine games. Patric Hornqvist scored in his second consecutive game to give him a club-leading 14 on the season and Rinne came up with 25 saves.

Nashville used last-place Columbus to continue its surge and went 5-0-1 against its rival in the season series. That left Predators head coach Barry Trotz wishing he has a few more games against the Blue Jackets left this season.

"No, not really," said Trotz when asked if he was happy to see the season series with Columbus end. "This was the one game that wasn't as tight as the other ones. They challenge us all the time."

Nashville also got a boost with the return of All-Star defenseman Ryan Suter, who had missed the past three games with an upper-body issue. He had a pair of assists in his return to action.