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Blackhawks at home for rematch with Predators

by Tal Pinchevsky

PREDATORS (15-16-8) at BLACKHAWKS (28-5-4)


Last 10: Nashville 4-4-2, Chicago 6-3-1

Season series: This is the fourth of five meetings this season between these Central Division rivals, who meet four times this month alone. The Chicago Blackhawks won the first meeting, 3-0, on Feb. 10 before winning 3-2 in a shootout Monday. This is the second in a weekend home-and-home that started Saturday afternoon with a 1-0 win by the Blackhawks.

Big story: Chicago has had a stranglehold on the NHL's best record since opening night while the Nashville Predators are on the Stanley Cup Playoff fringe after winning their opening series in each of the past two seasons. If they want to make a run to the postseason this year, they'll have to beat elite teams like Chicago.

Team Scope:

Predators: Following a 2-6-1 start to March, Nashville resuscitated its playoff hopes with three straight wins to start a four-game homestand. But the Predators have followed that with five losses in their next six games.

Against Chicago, the Predators appeared sluggish out of the gate. At 5:31 into the game, Bryan Bickell scored into an open net after Michal Handzus threaded a perfect cross-ice pass to him. The Predators were able to muster five shots in the first period and 13 shots through 40 minutes.

The Predators had plenty of chances in the final period, particularly when Daniel Carcillo received a double minor for high-sticking Shea Weber. But Nashville was unable to get its 19th-ranked power play going against a team that has not allowed a power-play goal since March 16.

Blackhawks: Two losses in nine days to the Anaheim Ducks suddenly halted any certainty that Chicago would finish the season with the League's best record. But since the second loss March 29, the Blackhawks have gone 3-0-1 against three teams in the Central Division. That run began with an emphatic 7-1 statement against the Detroit Red Wings.

Even with the 1-0 win over the Predators, there was plenty of discussion in the Blackhawks room about some of their walking wounded. Chicago came into Nashville missing two key forwards, Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland, who are out with an upper-body and lower-body injury, respectively.

At the team's morning skate Saturday, coach Joel Quenneville confirmed the pair is questionable for Sunday's rematch. In their absence, Marcus Kruger was promoted to the team's second line, playing 16:23 and earning an assist on Bickell's game-winning goal.

Who's hot: Predators forward David Legwand has five points in his past four games. Forward Patric Hornqvist has four points in that span. … Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews has six points in his past four games. Forward Brandon Saad has five points in that span.

Injury report: Predators forward Gabriel Bourque (upper body) missed Saturday's game. Forward Colin Wilson (upper body) is on injured reserve.

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