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Predators Game Preview

by Staff Writer / Chicago Blackhawks

Blackhawks vs. Nashville - 7:00 pm

By Adam L. Jahns

On Jan. 5, the Nashville Predators handed the Chicago Blackhawks their worst loss of the season, an 8-3 rout, at the United Center. Tonight at Nashville (7 pm), the Blackhawks get a shot at redemption.

Tonight's game is the sixth meeting between the Hawks and Predators and the first of two straight. It is also the last game before the All-Star break for both teams.

After seeming to have Nashville's number to open the season, the Hawks, which won the first three games, have dropped the last two to the Predators, who now own the best record in the NHL at 33-12-3.

Against the Predators, the Hawks (17-23-7) will have to rebound from what Denis Savard called an "unacceptable" loss to the Minnesota Wild on Friday. The Wild handed the Hawks their eighth straight loss by capitalizing on mistakes en route to a 3-0 win.

"Well, we got a play (tonight). We'll play tomorrow and go from there," Savard said. "I can't play for them. I can't go out and work for them.

"It's a will. You have to have that will. Period. It's not an easy game hockey. Everything has to be done hard. A lot of times at this level the will is going to take care of results."

The Hawks will face one of the hottest teams in the NHL in the Predators. Nashville has won eight of their last 10 games, including a six-game winning streak.

The Detroit Red Wings snapped Nashville's six-game run with a 3-5 win at home on Jan. 17. The Predators, though, recovered a day later and blanked the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-0.

Nashville - an explosive team that looks to get behind the defense as much as it can - is sparked by its speedy forwards Paul Kariya and Steve Sullivan, a former-Hawk.

Both players were two of the reasons why Nashville exploded for eight goals, including a five-goal second period, against the Blackhawks in their last tilt on Jan. 5.

Kariya, the team's leading scorer, had a goal and three assists to pace the Predators' eight-goal barrage which saw 12 Predators tally points.

Sullivan, who trails only Kariya for the team lead in points, added a goal and assist.

Kariya, Sullivan and David Legwand also have productive histories against the Blackhawks. Kariya has 25 goals and 56 points in 50 games played and Sullivan 23 points in 24 games.

This season, Legwand, a Detroit native, has three goals and seven points in five games against the Blackhawks, including a goal and two assists on Jan. 5.

The Hawks, on the other hand, will turn to Martin Havlat, who sat out the 8-3 loss with nagging groin injury, for a spark against the Predators. Nashville simply has been unable to stop the All-Star forward, as Hawks are much different team with him in the lineup.

In three games against the Predators this season, Havlat has four goals and seven points with plus-5 rating. In his career, he has five goals and 10 points in eight games played against Nashville.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Nikolai Khabibulin. Blackhawks. - The "Bulin Wall" will be back in net tonight after sitting out the Friday's game against the Wild in order to get some much-needed rest. Khabibulin has record of 15-13-4 and 2.71 goals-against average.

Paul Kariya. Predators. - The winger is coming off a two-point night against Columbus and has had the Blackhawks number this season. In five games against the Blackhawks this season, he has three goals and six assists for nine points

GAME DEFINING STAT

15 - Martin Havlat's plus/minus rating, the best on the Hawks. His plus-15 mark is also tied for the 23rd best in the NHL.

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