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.