Road-challenged Preds visit Blackhawks

The Nashville Predators will need to start picking up some victories on the road if they hope to return to the playoffs for a fourth straight year.

Two trips to Chicago in a week won't make that task any easier.

The Preds and Blackhawks will meet three times over the next seven days, beginning on Monday night at the United Center.

Nashville enters play tied for 10th in the Western Conference with 35 points, two back of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the eighth spot. While it is playing above .500 at home, the club is just 5-11-3 as the visiting club and has lost five straight on the road.

Saturday's 1-0 setback in overtime at the Colorado Avalanche dropped the Predators to 1-9-2 in their last 12 on the road and they now face a Blackhawks club that is leading the West with 55 points and is 12-3-1 at home on the year.

"We've got to start getting two points on the road," said Predators forward Brandon Yip. "You look at our games in the past and we can't get on the board first. We have to have better starts going forward."

Nashville would love to duplicate its defensive effort in Denver as it didn't allow its first goal until the 50-second mark of overtime, but the offense failed to produce after logging at least three goals in five straight.

Pekka Rinne made 23 saves for the Predators, who have lost two in a row since a three-game win streak.

Though Paul Gaustad returned to the lineup after missing eight straight due to an upper body injury, Mike Fisher did not play on Saturday because of a bruised right hand and is questionable for tonight.

Chicago got back on track in a big way on Sunday afternoon despite once again playing without Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. The Blackhawks erupted for three goals in the game's first four minutes and rolled to a 7-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings.

Brandon Saad and Dave Bolland both scored twice, with Bolland getting credit for his first goal when Detroit defender Jakub Kindl put a backhand attempt into his own net while trying to clear the puck away from danger at the 4:12 mark of the first.

"It's nice to get off to a good start," Saad said. "We got a couple of bounces and got a couple of goals and it was nice to play with the lead."

Corey Crawford made 33 saves and had his shutout bid end with 33 seconds left in the game, while Jonathan Toews had a goal and two assists as Chicago pushed its lead atop the Central Division over Detroit to 16 games.

The Blackhawks had lost three of four coming in and two of those setbacks came against the Anaheim Ducks, who they now lead by four points for the most in the West.

Sharp missed his 10th straight game due to a sprained left shoulder, while Hossa has been out of the last five contests due to an upper body injury. Both have returned to practice, though they did not make the trip to Detroit. However, the two could return to action as soon as tonight's game.

At the very least, the Predators should get a look at the duo by Saturday, when they will host the Blackhawks in the opener of a home-and-home set that concludes in Chicago the following day.

The Blackhawks have won two straight over the Predators since a four-game series losing streak, picking up a 3-0 win at Nashville on Feb. 10. Crawford made 17 saves in the shutout, while Toews, Marcus Kruger and Patrick Kane all scored.

Rinne made 24 saves for the Preds, who have won their last two trips to Chicago.