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Game 76: Nashville @ Chicago – Running the Asylum


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Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

The Predators finally pulled together a decent 60 minutes and beat the Winnipeg Jets, a team that was desperate for a win, by a score of 3-1.  The role players stepped up with Halischuk and Bourque finally getting rewarded for all their hard work.

The Chicago Blackhawks haven’t played a game since Wednesday but have been on a rampage winning their last five games and only losing once in regulation in the month of March.

An important two points hang in the balance of tonight’s game as the Blackhawks and Predators are fighting for position in the 4-6 places of the conference standings. Puck drop is at 6:30 central on FS Tennessee or 102.5 the Game.

This Year’s Series: 3-0-1 (Home 2-0-0) (Away 1-0-1)

Looking at the Blackhawks: A dangerous lineup of top tier talent has the Blackhawks clawing their way into contention for 4th in the conference behind the play of Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp. Sharp has 6 points in the last five games scoring two game-winning goals. Kane has 4 points in the last five games with one game-winning goal. This is key to the Blackhawks success until Jonathan Toews can get back into the lineup after a setback in his recovery.

The dark cloud hanging over the Blackhawks right now is the 5 game suspension of Duncan Keith. A very unnecessary hit on Daniel Sedin was cause for supplemental discipline and the Hawks will be without his services for both games against the Nashville Predators this week.

Looking at the Predators: The Predators finally looked like a hungry team that had some bounces go their way against the Winnipeg Jets. Halischuk and Bourque factored in the scoring with two hard driving chances rewarding their 110% attitudes on the ice. Weber would put in the PP empty-netter to make it a 3-1 win.

Rinne was able to make some key stops in net, but it was the sacrificial play of some Predators that saved the day. Kevin Klein blocked two point blank opportunities for the Jets in the first period and Bourque would later take a huge Byfuglien slap shot to the leg to slow down a powerful late second period surge.

For the Blackhawks to win: Take it to the Predators early and often. The Madhouse on Madison will be louder than ever with the playoffs coming just inside of a few weeks. The Hawks can not only feed off their energy but take advantage of a Predators team that has played the night before. The Blackhawks are very well-rested not playing a game since Wednesday night. Fresh legs will be key to wearing down the Predators.

Another key will be solid defense and goaltending. Chicago will be without the services of one of their defensive stalwarts in Duncan Keith. The rest of the squad starting with Seabrook and Leddy will have to fill the gap left on their blueline. Crawford and Emery are posting almost identical numbers in GAA and SV%. Both are capable goalies, but Crawford has been on fire as of late allowing only 4 goals in the last 5 games. If Crawford and the Blackhawks can ride this hot streak into the playoffs, they will be a tough draw for any of the other Western Conference teams in the first round of action.

For the Predators to win: Having Gaustad back in the lineup paid immediate dividends for the Predators. Nashville is able to roll four solid lines and the top two lines are very dangerous with Radulov being back in the fold. Trotz will need to rely all four lines to keep things fresh while playing in the latter of a back-to-back series.

Most often in back-to-back games, whichever goalies starts the first, the other will start the second. With an important two points on the line, look for Rinne to also start tonight against the Blackhawks. Rinne gets better and better the more shots he sees similar to a former netminder for the Predators: Tomas Vokoun. Rinne gives Nashville the best chance to win every game he starts and it’ll be up to him to stone every opportunity the Blackhawks throw his way tonight.

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