Preds, Blackhawks both aim for quick start (Dec 29, 2016)
When the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators meet Thursday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, one thing is certain: One of them is bound to get off to a better start than it has lately.
In absorbing a 3-1 home loss Tuesday night to Winnipeg, Chicago (22-10-5) coughed up the first goal for the seventh time in nine games. Nashville (15-13-6) trailed 1-0 for the eighth time in nine games Thursday night and ended up losing 3-2 in overtime to scalding-hot Minnesota.
A couple of years ago, Predators coach Peter Laviolette cautioned media not to look too much into who allows the first goal, comparing it to cutting a deck of cards. His rationale was that every team in the league is talented and capable of scoring first.
But when the deck of cards continually falls in your opponents' favor, is there something different a team can do to reverse that trend and not end up chasing the game all the time?
"Tonight was difficult to tell, to be honest with you," Laviolette said Tuesday night. "If you're talking about the first few shifts, I thought they were good, but then it got into specialty teams. There were too many calls against us tonight. That makes it difficult to say where it's at."
However, it's not difficult to say that Nashville continues to play below the potential it's exhibited at times this season. The Predators haven't been able to string together more than three wins in a row, and have followed a 9-3-2 November with a 4-5-3 December in which they have gone just 2-3-3 at home.
With nine road games slated for January, including a tough five-game swing through western Canada, Nashville could dig itself a deeper hole if it can't figure things out soon. Wins Thursday night and Friday night in St. Louis might give this team the kick-start it needs.
"It's a huge week and we just have to get some wins," defenseman Roman Josi said.
Pardon the Blackhawks if they have about zero sympathy. The loss Tuesday night to the Jets was their third in a row, their season high, and also continued a recent trend. They have managed just five goals during that stretch, including just one in each of the last two games.
Star right winger Patrick Kane, whose assist teed up linemate Artem Anisimov for Tuesday night's only marker, said his line could have contributed much more.
"I think our line especially could have shot the puck a little more tonight, instead of looking for that extra pass," he said. "It's something we can try and get more involved in our game. Once it got to 3-1 it seemed like we were chasing the game a little bit."
Both teams will be shorthanded again Thursday night. Chicago forward Marian Hossa will sit out his third straight game with an upper-body injury, the same malady that will keep Predators defenseman P.K. Subban on the shelf for a sixth consecutive contest.
Corey Crawford is expected to start in net for the Blackhawks, while Pekka Rinne should draw the assignment for Nashville.