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Blackhawks expect up-tempo game from Predators

by Brian Hedger

NASHVILLE -- The Chicago Blackhawks have played their Western Conference First Round series against the Nashville Predators at a torrid pace, and they don't expect it to get any slower in Game 5 at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 3, CSN-CH, FS-TN).

Despite playing more than three full overtime periods in the first four games, winning Game 1 in double overtime and Game 4 in triple overtime, Chicago expects Nashville to push the pedal to the floor again with the Blackhawks leading the best-of-7 series 3-1.

"This team, in their home building, this might be the best starting team in the League," forward Kris Versteeg said after the Blackhawks optional morning skate Thursday. "They always find a way to come out blazing and somehow scoring a goal here or there and create energy. We're going to have to find ways to take the crowd out of it, especially early on, and weather a storm that's going to come."

One of those ways is keeping themselves rested and hydrated. Game 4 in Chicago ended at 2:15 a.m. ET, so neither team got much sleep. The Blackhawks pushed their charter flight back to Wednesday afternoon, stocked up on fruit and rehydrating fluids and have tried to get as much sleep as possible.

"You pretty much eat and drink the same thing here every single day, and it can get a little annoying," Versteeg said. "But it is what it is. You've got to replenish your body and you've got to find ways to stay healthy and limber, and it's a tough thing to do. You definitely ache after every game. It's a tough task, but nutrition's the No. 1 thing."

The Blackhawks only had about half their roster participate in the morning skate. Nearly all of their top players stayed off the ice, with left wing Bryan Bickell the only top-six forward who skated. Among those who didn't skate was defenseman Duncan Keith, who played 46:19 in Game 4.

The Blackhawks had seven players log at least 30 minutes in that game, with two more reaching 29 minutes. The Predators had four defensemen play more than 40 minutes. Still, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville expects another fast-paced game.

"I think everybody's fine," Quenneville said. "There was enough time to get enough rest and get yourself refocused and energized going into the game. Tough to forecast going into a game like tonight, but I expect the pace to be equally as fast as we've seen and even maybe go up a notch or two."

Here are the projected lineups:


Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa

Bryan BickellBrad RichardsPatrick Kane

Kris VersteegAntoine VermettePatrick Sharp

Andrew DesjardinsMarcus KrugerAndrew Shaw

Johnny OduyaNiklas Hjalmarsson

Duncan KeithMichal Rozsival

Kimmo TimonenBrent Seabrook

Scott Darling

Corey Crawford

Scratched: Joakim Nordstrom, Teuvo Teravainen, Antti Raanta, David Rundblad, Kyle Cumiskey, Michael Paliotta, Daniel Carcillo

Injured: none


Filip ForsbergMike RibeiroCraig Smith

Colin WilsonMatt CullenJames Neal

Mike SantorelliCalle JarnkrokViktor Stalberg

Gabriel BourquePaul GaustadTaylor Beck

Roman JosiSeth Jones

Mattias EkholmRyan Ellis

Victor BartleyCody Franson

Pekka Rinne

Carter Hutton

Scratched: Anton Volchenkov, Kevin Fiala, Viktor Arvidsson, Colton Sissons, Austin Watson, Johan Alm, Anthony Bitetto, Joe Piskula, Magnus Hellberg, Marek Mazanec

Injured: Eric Nystrom (lower body), Mike Fisher (lower body), Shea Weber (lower body)

Status report: Kane and Hossa were among those that didn't skate for the Blackhawks. Kane logged 34:55 in Game 4, his fourth game back after returning early from a fractured collarbone, while right wing Marian Hossa played 33:56. … Quenneville said he will likely use the same lineup as Game 4.

Who's hot: Saad has scored a goal in each of the past two games. … Hossa has assists in three of the four games and five in the series.

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