The Chicago Blackhawks have shaken up their lines and benched
their star players in order to spark a turnaround, but a visit to
Nashville may be just what they need to get back on track.
The Blackhawks head there Saturday night for the first time
since closing out their first-round series en route to the Stanley
Cup, looking to hand the Predators a fifth consecutive home
Chicago last played at Nashville in Game 6 of the Western
Conference quarterfinals, winning 5-3 to advance. The Blackhawks
went on to win their first Stanley Cup in 49 years.
This season, however, hasn’t started off as planned for the
Coach Joel Quenneville shifted Patrick Kane from right to left
wing and split the defensive tandem of Duncan Keith and Brent
Seabrook in Wednesday’s 2-1 home loss to Phoenix. The changes had
little effect, and Kane and Keith were benched for portions of the
second period. Kane had only one shot and miscues by Keith led to
both Coyotes goals.
“It just comes down to me needing to play better,” said Keith,
who has a minus-7 rating in his last four games. “The past few
games, probably more than that, I haven’t been my best and I know I
need to be better.”
Chicago (8-9-1) has lost four of five, and leading scorer
Patrick Sharp hasn’t netted a goal in six games. The Blackhawks
didn’t suffer their ninth regulation loss last season until Dec.
“We know it’s unacceptable,” defenseman Brian Campbell said.
“We’ve got to be better, all around.”
Chicago, the third-highest scoring team in the NHL last season,
has been held to two or fewer goals eight times. Marian Hossa, who
recently missed five games with an undisclosed upper-body injury,
hasn’t registered a point in the last six he’s played.
Marty Turco likely will be in net and is 3-0-1 with a 1.72
goals-against average in his last four starts against the
Predators, though he didn’t play in the only matchup this season as
Nashville won 3-2 in Chicago on Oct. 13.
The Predators also won the next night at home against St. Louis,
but they have since lost all four of their games at Bridgestone
Arena. It’s their longest home losing streak since dropping six
straight Feb. 21-March 20, 2008.
Nashville (6-5-3) had lost five in a row overall before a 3-2
shootout win Thursday in St. Louis. Cal O’Reilly scored for his
team-leading 12th point and J.P. Dumont added a goal.
“We hadn’t won in awhile, so you know you’re always wondering if
you have much confidence,” coach Barry Trotz said. “I thought we
did a really good job. (We’re) fortunate to win it in the shootout
so will take the win. It’s never easy for us and it hasn’t been in
this last little while.”
Pekka Rinne made 21 saves for his first victory in five starts
since shutting out Dallas on Oct. 23.
“It was a huge win,” Rinne said. “We had a tough stretch with
five losses in a row. We were really focusing on losing this skid.
We played a strong game.”
Rinne held Chicago to four goals in the first three games of
last season’s playoff series as Nashville took a 2-1 lead, but he
gave up 12 in the next three.
Backup Anders Lindback made 23 saves last month in Chicago,
where Nashville rallied to victory with two third-period goals –
the last by Joel Ward on the power play with 26.7 seconds