Blackhawks, Predators face different issues

The Nashville Predators are suddenly having trouble scoring goals. The Chicago Blackhawks are experiencing frightful difficulties preventing opponents from scoring goals.

Something has to give Saturday night when the Central Division rivals meet at Bridgestone Arena, each looking to reverse recent losing trends.

Nashville (17-8-1) is 1-2-0 on a five-game homestand, including a puzzling 3-0 loss to Arizona on Thursday that saw it get blanked by Adin Hill, he of six NHL starts. The Predators turned in a genuine smeller, drawing 24 penalty minutes, losing 33 of 61 faceoffs and failing to convert on their two power play chances.

“They were faster than us,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “They wanted it more. We didn’t have enough guys with their hands on the rope pulling it our way.”

The Predators aren’t getting enough production from key players. Kevin Fiala has scored three goals all season and was demoted to the fourth line for a few games. Ryan Ellis has managed one goal. Craig Smith has only two goals in his last 17 games.

Even the top line is struggling. Center Ryan Johansen has just three points in his last eight games, and left winger Filip Forsberg has only eight points in his last 15. That helps explain why Nashville is 4-5-1 in its last 10 games with just 27 goals.

“It’s frustrating getting held off the scoreboard in our own rink against a new goaltender like they had,” forward Colton Sissons said. “It’s pretty disappointing. We’re just in a little bit of a funk here. We’re not feeling ourselves and not playing a game that’s winning hockey right now. Back to the drawing board, and we have to move on.”

Based on the last five games, the Predators may have a perfect foil to correct their issues. Chicago (9-12-5) has lost 13 of its last 16 games, the results getting no better since it canned three-time Stanley Cup-winning coach Joel Quenneville on Nov. 6.

The Blackhawks are 3-6-2 under interim coach Jeremy Colliton, including a 6-5 loss Thursday night in Winnipeg that highlighted their defensive problems. They have ceded 26 goals in their last five games, coughing up eight in a Tuesday night loss to Vegas.

“I thought defensive zone coverage was much better,” Colliton said after the loss in Winnipeg. “But now we had trouble off the rush. We’ve got to put it together. It’s tough to win until we sort it out. There needs to be some urgency there. If there hasn’t been already, it’s been long enough now.”

Slow starts doomed the Blackhawks against the Jets, who scored in the first two minutes of each period. The Blackhawks led and played like a team caught in the transition between the end of a glorious era and the beginning of an uncertain one.

“There’s no quit in this team, but we’ve got to get better,” Blackhawks forward Marcus Kruger said. “We can’t get behind every game. We have to stay in the game and build the game from there and make it harder on our opponents.”