Blackhawks-Predators Preview

The Chicago Blackhawks have won four of their last five games

with an average of five goals. The Nashville Predators have won

three straight while allowing a total of four.

The Central Division foes will meet Tuesday night in Nashville

with each looking to continue their recent formulas for

success.

The Blackhawks (24-7-5) scored three times in the first period

in Sunday’s 3-1 home win against Los Angeles, which hadn’t allowed

a goal in the opening 20 minutes in an NHL-record 18 straight

games.

The victory followed a 7-3 loss in Toronto on Saturday.

“It’s not always about the team we’re playing against,” Chicago

captain Jonathan Toews told the team’s official website. “It’s more

about how we’re preparing ourselves. I’d say it was a much better

effort tonight, and it’s nice to see that we can rebound from that.

It doesn’t take us long to get back to our good habits.”

Marian Hossa scored a short-handed goal, while Patrick Sharp’s

tally gave Chicago at least one power-play goal in nine straight

games. The Blackhawks are converting 38.1 percent of their chances

in the last five games.

Toews assisted for Hossa and Sharp has seven points on a

five-game point streak.

Patrick Kane extended his point streak to nine games with an

assist on Kris Versteeg’s goal. Kane is second in the NHL with 45

points, recording at least one in 21 of 22 games with 17 on the

current streak. He’s scored in three straight games against the

Predators.

Chicago’s goaltending has been its biggest question mark lately.

With starter Corey Crawford and backup Nikolai Khabibulin both

injured, coach Joel Quenneville has turned to Antti Raanta. The

rookie is 6-1-1 and has allowed more than two goals only once. He

bounced back from a rough night against the Maple Leafs with 22

saves against the Kings.

The Blackhawks can take the ice in Nashville with similar

motivation as they try to avenge an embarrassing 7-2 defeat there

Nov. 16. They can also earn Quenneville his 685th career win, which

would move him into sole possession of fourth place on the career

list.

“I’ve been in some real nice places with some real good players

and real good organizations,” Quenneville said. “I’ve had the

privilege to coach and work with a lot of great players, when I

look back to spots I’ve been at. I’m very happy with where I’m at

and I like the group I get to work with every day.”

Nashville (16-14-3) has rebounded from a five-game winless

streak with three straight victories after Saturday’s 3-2 home win

over San Jose.

With starter Pekka Rinne on injured reserve due to a hip

infection, they’ve had goaltending issues of their own.

Carter Hutton, who played one game with Chicago last season, has

been in net for each game during the current win streak. He’s 3-0-0

in his last five, including two relief appearances, with a 1.10

goals against average and .966 save percentage.

He made 36 saves against the Sharks and faced 20 third-period

shots.

“They are a pretty solid team, and they are going to get their

chances,” Hutton said. “We kind of bent, but we didn’t break. We

weathered the storm and held on for a big two points.”

Beating another solid team might depend on the Predators

quieting the Blackhawks’ power play – something they’ve done

consistently for a month. Dating to their last game against

Chicago, Nashville has allowed three power-play goals in 14 games,

which is tied for the league low.

Nashville leading scorer David Legwand has 13 points in his last

12 games against Chicago, which went 5-0-0 against the Predators

last season.

Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell has been activated from injured

reserve after missing the last 14 games with a lower-body

injury.