Blackhawks-Predators Preview

No one has scored on Corey Crawford in his last two games.

Pekka Rinne’s recent opponents were having plenty of trouble
scoring until the last period he played.

The Western Conference leaders in goals-against average could
match up for the first time during a home-and-home series that
begins Saturday night in Nashville.

Crawford recorded his second consecutive shutout – and third of
his career – Wednesday night by making 24 saves in a 4-0 home
victory over Colorado. The rookie’s 126-minute, 25-second scoreless
streak helped the Blackhawks (24-18-3) win three straight to finish
a four-game homestand.

No Chicago goaltender has posted three consecutive shutouts
since Hall of Famer Tony Esposito from Jan. 19-27, 1972. The only
longer scoreless streak in the past 2 1/2 seasons for the
Blackhawks was Cristobal Huet’s run of 143:31 in December 2009.

“He’s been consistent all year for us,” coach Joel Quenneville
said of Crawford, 7-2-0 with a 1.55 GAA in his last nine games.
“He’s very confident. … When you get on a roll, the puck looks
big to you.”

It appeared Rinne might allow only one goal for a sixth
consecutive start Thursday night, leading 2-1 late in the third
period at Florida. Rinne, though, gave up two in a 2:14 span en
route to a 3-2 loss as the Predators had a season-high six-game win
streak snapped.

“I think we did it to ourselves,” Rinne said. “We gave the game
away.”

The loss dropped Rinne behind Crawford for the conference lead
in goals-against average – 2.15 to 2.14.

Their teams have met three times this season, but the only one
in which Rinne played came against Marty Turco during a 4-3
shootout win at home Nov. 13.

The result gave Rinne a 5-5-0 record and a 2.41 GAA in 11
appearances against Chicago.

Crawford split two games at the United Center – his only two
career matchups with the Predators (23-14-6) – while playing
against fellow rookie Anders Lindback. Crawford gave up Joel Ward’s
power-play goal with 26.7 seconds left in a 3-2 loss Oct. 13 and
made 24 saves in a 4-1 win Dec. 22.

Jack Skille scored twice in that game to help the Blackhawks
record their first win over Nashville this season and has four of
his seven goals in the three matchups with the Predators.

Seven Nashville players have scored in the season series,
including Cody Franson’s tying goal in the third period of
Nashville’s home win in November.

The Predators, searching for a third straight home win, hope
Martin Erat returns for this game or Sunday in Chicago. The winger,
out the last nine games with an upper-body injury, has five goals
and seven assists in his last 10 games against the Blackhawks.

Quenneville said Thursday that Turco might play in one of the
two games. Turco, who has made five starts since Thanksgiving, is
3-0-2 with a 1.94 GAA in his last five against Nashville.

Predators All-Star defenseman Shea Weber is on a career-best,
seven-game point streak but has one goal in his last eight games
against Chicago. That lone score, however, was in the November
shootout victory.

Another Predators defenseman, Shane O’Brien, won’t play in the
home-and-home set after being suspended two games for a
high-sticking incident Thursday.

The Blackhawks are 1-3-1 in their last five road games.