If the law of averages evens things out for the Chicago Blackhawks, the Nashville Predators are in trouble.
Three nights after the Blackhawks attempted nearly 100 shots and scored once, the Central Division rivals meet Saturday night at United Center with each team yet to suffer a regulation loss.
In Wednesday’s 2-1 home overtime loss to Calgary, Chicago (2-0-1) put 50 shots on goal, had 30 blocked and missed the net with another 16 for a total of 96. The club’s 18 shots on target in the first period matched Calgary’s total for the entire game.
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"Our best shots, we probably had six or seven A-plus chances that didn’t even get a shot on net," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We were looking for a better play, missed shot, blocked, too tight or missed the net. Those were the ones that didn’t even add up on the scoresheet as far as shots. But those were the quality chances we missed."
The one that did squeak through came from Andrew Shaw on the power play with Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews assisting. Sharp leads the team with four points, while Shaw and Toews each have three. Sharp has had a hand in each of the team’s three power-play goals.
The Blackhawks didn’t fare much better last season against Nashville, falling in four of five meetings while being outscored 20-12 despite outshooting the Predators 155-137. Nashville turned in two seven-goal efforts and won both contests played in Chicago.
Corey Crawford was in goal for three of the losses with a 3.73 goals-against average and .853 save percentage. His three games this year have resulted in a 1.90 GAA and .920 save percentage, and he’ll start against Nashville (3-0-1) as the Blackhawks play their third on a four-game homestand.
The Predators travel from Winnipeg, where they opened the road portion of their schedule with Friday’s 2-0 victory.
The offense came from a pair of newcomers as Mike Ribeiro scored his second goal with Nashville and James Neal netted his first. Filip Forsberg’s assist extended his season-opening point streak to four games with a goal and four assists to match the 20-year-old’s 13-game point total from last season.
Another win would give the Predators their best five-game start since winning their first eight in 2005.
Pekka Rinne started against the Jets and notched his first shutout of the season, making 31 stops to give him a 1.23 GAA and .948 save percentage. Any concerns about how he’d respond to a full work load have thus far been quieted after he missed much of 2013-14 with a hip infection that followed an arthroscopy.
"It was a tough season last year, battling with the injury. It took forever to get back," Rinne said. "I’m just having fun, enjoying hockey. I had a really good summer. I’m back to where I need to be physically and just trying to enjoy it and stay healthy."
His last trip to Chicago also resulted in a shutout March 23, moving him to 4-1-2 with a 2.12 GAA and .932 save percentage in seven starts at United Center since Jan. 24, 2012.
Backup Carter Hutton, who played one game for Chicago two seasons ago, could see his first action of the season. He faced Chicago once a season ago and lost 3-1.
Defenseman Shea Weber had three goals and three assists against Chicago last season.
The Blackhawks will have defenseman Michael Rozsival back after he missed the first three games due to an upper-body injury.