Preds host Blackhawks in Central Division clash
The Nashville Predators will try to make up some ground on the rival Chicago Blackhawks when the Central Division foes meet tonight at Bridgestone Arena in the Music City.
The Predators are seeded sixth in the Western Conference with 58 points, but Nashville is also sitting fourth in the Central, where Chicago is leading the division with 64 points.
The Blackhawks and Preds have contested just one of six scheduled meetings against each other this year and Chicago posted a 5-4 overtime win on home ice back on Oct. 31. The Hawks have taken three straight, four of five and six of nine in this series overall, but Nashville has claimed three of the last five encounters at Bridgestone Arena.
Nashville has won six of seven and nine of its last 11 games heading into tonight. The Blackhawks have also fared well recently, winning three straight and five of six after opening January on a four-game losing streak.
After getting shut out Tuesday by the New York Rangers, the Predators closed their three-game road trip on a positive note with Thursday's 3-0 victory in Columbus.
Pekka Rinne made 38 saves en route to his fourth shutout of the season and 24th of his career in the win at Nationwide Arena. It was the sixth straight win for Rinne, who is 25-11-4 this season.
"He was great," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said of his goaltender. "I thought we did a pretty good job of letting him see the puck."
Martin Erat finished with a goal and an assist, while Mike Fisher and Shea Weber also scored for the Predators.
Nashville played without defenseman Ryan Suter for a second straight game and the All-Star could sit out another test tonight with the upper-body injury. Suter has five goals and 20 assists this year and is leading the Preds in ice time.
The Predators are playing the first of two straight on home ice tonight and will also host Columbus on Monday. Nashville has won its last three tilts in Music City and is 14-7-3 as the host this year.
All three victories on Chicago's current winning streak came at home and the Blackhawks will try to end a three-game road skid tonight. The Blackhawks are 10-8-2 as the guest this year compared to a 19-5-4 mark at home.
Chicago's most recent victory came Friday night in a 3-1 win over the Florida Panthers. Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist to lead the Blackhawks to the triumph at United Center.
Kane ended a seven-game goalless drought and now has 11 markers and 30 assists this season.
"It was nice to see him get that goal because he's been working real hard every day," said Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville about Kane, who has just two goals in his last 15 games. "He's been putting the effort in and his defense has been fantastic, so it's good that he scored, he deserved it."
Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith also scored for the Blackhawks, while Ray Emery made 18 saves for the win.
Corey Crawford is expected to get the start in net tonight for Chicago and he is 3-1-1 with a 1.96 goals-against average in five career tests against Nashville.