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A long losing streak at the Sommet Center has hurt Nashville's playoff hopes. Failing to take advantage of matchups with the lowly Chicago Blackhawks hasn't helped the Predators' chances, either.
The Predators look to avoid setting a franchise record for consecutive home losses and snap a four-game losing streak to the Blackhawks when the teams meet Saturday.
Nashville (36-31-8) has matched a team mark with six straight home defeats, tying a skid from Feb. 26-March 21, 2002 and putting it in danger of missing the postseason for the first time in five years. With seven games left in the regular season, the Predators trail eighth-place Colorado by four points in the Western Conference.
"Our window is extremely thin right now, but we absolutely can still get in because it's a fairly high mathematical probability that we can make it," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.
The Predators went 20-9-3 at the Sommet Center before their skid, but lost two straight to the Blackhawks (35-32-7) during that span. Nashville four consecutive overall losses to Chicago came after winning the first two meetings this season.
Poor defense and goaltending have hurt the Predators during their losing streak against the Blackhawks, as well as their skid at home. Nashville has allowed five goals or more in three of its last four games against Chicago, and 14 total in its last three games at the Sommet Center.
"We're in a playoff hunt right now and we need good goaltending because it's so disheartening on the bench when we let bad goals happen," Trotz said. "It's an emotional high and low."
Dan Ellis gave up two goals in a little more than one period before Trotz replaced him with Chris Mason in the Predators' 6-3 home loss to Detroit on Thursday night. Trotz has pulled his starting goalie 12 times.
Mason has played in five games versus the Blackhawks this season, going 2-2-0 with a 4.29 goals-against average, while Ellis is 0-1-1 with a 3.29 GAA in four games against them.
Chicago, meanwhile, got an outstanding performance from its goalie Wednesday night. Nikolai Khabibulin, in his first start in nearly a month, made 25 saves to lead the Blackhawks to a 5-0 win over Washington.
The start was Khabibulin's first since Feb. 20, when he beat Minnesota 3-0. After that game, he missed 12 contests with back spasms before relieving Patrick Lalime in a loss to Calgary on Sunday.
Khabibulin, with 38 career shutouts, is 2-1-1 with a 3.60 GAA in four games against Nashville this season.
Chicago may need Khabibulin to continue his strong play to have any chance at the playoffs. The Blackhawks are seven points behind the Avalanche with eight games remaining.
Offense hasn't been a problem as Chicago appears to be trying to make a late push. The Blackhawks have won two of their last three, scoring five goals or more in each of the victories.
Toews, despite missing 18 games due to injuries, has 21 goals and is one behind Phoenix's Peter Mueller for the rookie lead in that category.
Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane, meanwhile, leads all rookies with 63 points (17 goals, 46 assists). He has one goal and seven assists in six games versus Nashville.