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Game 79: Chicago @ Nashville – Centrally Dominant


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Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

 

 The Chicago Blackhawks were gracious hosts to the Nashville Predators on Sunday. The Predators deposited numerous amounts of rubber behind both Crawford and Emery in a 6-1 victory.

The Chicago Blackhawks remember this game well and are looking to play spoiler on Nashville’s home ice for their last meeting of the season. Chicago is only three points back of Nashville and two points back of Detroit.

Nashville took it to Detroit in last night’s contest scoring three unanswered goals before Hudler made it interesting in the last 3 minutes of the third period. Weber would tally the empty-netter for a 4-1 win and the first win of the year for the Predators at Joe Louis Arena.

Game time is 7 P.M. and this game is a sellout. FS Tennesse will have the T.V. feed with Pete Weber and Terry Crisp; 102.5 the Game will have your radio coverage.

This Year’s Series: 4-0-1 (Home 2-0-0) (Away 2-0-1)

Looking at the Blackhawks: Although the Hawks are missing two key ingredients in the Captain Jonathan Toews and defenseman Duncan Keith, they still have a formidable forward core. Hossa, Stalberg, Kane and Sharp can light up any team given time and space. Seabrook, Leddy and Hjalmarsson can stand up to most opposing squads top lines.

Toews is expected to return next Thrsday against the Wild. Keith will also be back in the lineup against the Wild Thursday as his suspension ends with the Minnesota game on Sunday.

Before Nashville handed Chicago the loss on Sunday, Corey Crawford was on a five game tear allowing only eight goals in those five games. Since then including the Nashville game, Crawford has allowed 8 goals in 3 games.

Looking at the Predators: As per usual, it was a chess match between Coach Babcock and Coach Trotz friday night at Joe Louis Arena. The first period was a feeling out process with neither team taking an ill-timed chance against the other. The second and third periods were a different story.

The Predators jumped to a 1-0 lead after Gabriel Bourque sent a seemingly harmless wrister on net with Gaustad screening in front. Hard work from Bouillon paid off in the final minute as he fired a shot past Howard to make it 2-0. Radulov contributed yet again with an amazing cut to the front to tip-in for a 3-0 score. The Predators fought hard and weathered the storm to come out with a rare two points in Detroit.

For the Blackhawks to win: Take the crowd out early. This may be the biggest key for the Blackhawks to win because the frenzy of playoff hockey at Bridgestone Arena with the Predators already clinching will be deafening. Chicago has forwards that can easily frustrate the sellout crowd. Patrick Sharp for many years has been a poison pill against Nashville and Marian Hossa still has tons of energy left for the odd-man rush or breakaway opportunity which is almost a given goal on his stick.

Crawford will need to find his way back to the stopping power of his five game win streak. When Crawford is on, he is a tough netminder to crack. What the defense is missing in Keith, a steady Crawford can make up for any lapses.

For the Predators to win: A steady 60 minute effort fueled by the rabid playoff-sensing fans of the fang. The Predators are finally with their full complement of players after Erat, Josi and Tootoo made their way into the lineup Friday night. Josi had the biggest return with a team leading 4 SOG and a +3 on the night.

Erat provides the speed and hands that make his line so dangerous. By having Radulov on the next line, Nashville can boast for the first time in a long time two legit top scoring lines. The energy from Tootoo last night was much needed and his play to set up Bourque for the first score of the game was just the confidence boost Tootoo needs to step his game up going into the playoffs where he was a beast last season.

On the back-to-back, it can either be Lindback or Rinne in net tonight. Either one has the chance to win against Chicago so long as the Predators defense can clear the paths and work hard on the boards to get the puck going the other way. With three solid defensive pairings and Ellis and Hillen in reserves, the Predators have depth in all positions the likes that Nashville has never seen before.

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