The Chicago Blackhawks welcome the struggling Nashville Predators to the United Center Monday night as they look to keep the momentum from a 7 – 1 victory in Detroit yesterday afternoon. This meeting will be the first of 3 matchups between the division rivals in seven days.
Chicago shutout Nashville in the Bridgestone Arena in February 3 – 0 and hopes to capitalize on a struggling club in the United Center. Nashville has gone 4 – 5 – 1 over its last 10 games and are 5 – 11 – 3 on the road through 35 games this season. Standing a 12th place in the Western Conference, the Preds are fighting for a playoff spot and can afford no room for error.
Pekka Rinne has registered a .910 save percentage and a 13 – 10 – 6 record thus far in the season, something that fails to meet Head Coach Barry Trotz’s expectations. “The best I can explain it is that we showed a little bit a immaturity as a group,” Trotz told the press after a 7 – 4 loss to Phoenix Thursday night. In a game that included 6 first period goals from the Coyotes, Nashville could not gain any momentum back to take control. In their most recent game against Colorado Sunday night, the Predators got shutout in a overtime loss in Denver.
The Blackhawks had quite the opposite experience in a Sunday afternoon contest in Detroit. In a 7 – 1 victory over their division rivals, the Blackhawks could not seem to do much wrong against the Red Wings. It was a special outing for Dave Bolland who registered two goals, his first goal in 15 games. He has been struggling in the faceoff circle this season, winning only 45% of his draws. Quenneville hopes that his recent two-goal outing will spark a higher level of motivation in Bolland.
Though the top line of Toews, Frolik, and Saad was solid, credited with 3 of the 7 goals in the Joe Louis Arena, Jeremy Morin was the big story for the day. Just moments into the game after being called up from Rockford, Morin opened the scoring with an unassisted wrist shot. He appears to be competing at a level that will keep him in the NHL and out of the AHL – something that coaches and players alike are hopeful stays true.
Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa are still expected to sit out tonight’s game against Nashville. Both members have missed a total of 15 combined games and Chicago wants them back. Marian Hossa stands third on the Blackhawks in points (23) having missed the last 5 games. The elevated level of competition is essential to a Blackhawks postseason run.
Nevertheless, Chicago and Nashville always compete at a high level and it’s expected that the Predators come out with a physical game and high energy in the search for a momentum swinging win. Rinne has struggled of late but always performs well against Chicago (maybe it’s something in the water?).
If the Hawks light the lamp in the first and second periods, the Predators will struggle to keep up. Chicago has scored 79 of its 112 goals on the season in the first two periods, compared to Nashville’s 55 in the first 40 minutes. If Chicago can make that happen, they’ll get an opportunity to play keep-away in the third – a factor that has haunted the Madhouse Gang in this shortened season.
Prepare for a physical and offensive battle at the Madhouse on Madison Monday night in this Central Division clash.