BLACKHAWKS at PREDATORS
TV: NBCSN, TVA Sports, SN360, CSN-CH, FS-TN
NASHVILLE -- The Chicago Blackhawks will get a big boost to their lineup as forward Patrick Kane will return to play against the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round series (8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 3, CSN-CH, FS-TN).
Kane missed seven weeks after having surgery on Feb. 25 to repair his fractured left clavicle. His return to the lineup will be an unexpected boost for the Blackhawks. Kane was originally expected to be out until the Western Conference Final.
"It's always an anxious, nerve-racking time for everyone," Kane said. "It's playoffs, Game 1, and you hope to get started off the right way. Obviously I haven't played in a while, so you try to do every little thing possible to be as prepared as you can."
Kane said being out of the lineup and not being able to play for seven weeks made him appreciate being able to play hockey more.
"It's something you love to do," Kane said. "You love to play hockey. You love to be part of the locker room, be part of everything getting ready and getting prepared for a game. You miss out on all that stuff when it's not possible to happen. It's one of those things you definitely miss when you're out that long."
Chicago forward Antoine Vermette will be a healthy scratch for Game 1 after skating with Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw and Patrick Sharp on the third line at the morning skate.
"I think the last couple days being on the line he was on in practice, knowing that it looked like he might be out, he did whatever he could to prepare for today's game," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I talked to him today. It's one of those situations where [it's] performance-based. We made our decision based on the last part of the year."
Nashville went 0-4-2 in its final six games to close out the regular season, but the players say that stretch doesn't affect the confidence of the team heading into the playoffs.
"You have to have confidence going in," Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne said. "You look at the season as a whole, I think you have to be happy with our season. Just gain confidence from that and just realizing and knowing the way we can play, just bringing that game to the playoffs. I feel like we can match up against anybody."
The Predators have several young players making their playoff debuts Wednesday and have two players that have won a Stanley Cup. The Blackhawks have won two Stanley Cups in the past five seasons. The Predators are hoping they can use home-ice advantage to their benefit in this series.
"I'm just really excited," Predators forward Taylor Beck said. "It's going to be a really fun and exciting series, and to start at home is a great feeling. It's just excitement and ready to go."
Nashville forward Mike Fisher will return to the lineup after missing the final two games of the regular season with a lower-body injury.
Here are the projected lineups:
Brandon Saad – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
Kris Versteeg – Brad Richards – Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell – Andrew Shaw – Patrick Sharp
Joakim Nordstrom – Marcus Kruger – Teuvo Teravainen
Duncan Keith – Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya – Niklas Hjalmarsson
Kimmo Timonen – Michal Rozsival
Scratched: Andrew Desjardins, David Rundblad, Kyle Cumiskey, Michael Paliotta, Antoine Vermette, Antti Raanta
Injured: Daniel Carcillo (upper body)
Filip Forsberg – Mike Ribeiro – Craig Smith
Colin Wilson – Mike Fisher – James Neal
Matt Cullen – Calle Jarnkrok – Viktor Stalberg
Gabriel Bourque – Paul Gaustad – Taylor Beck
Roman Josi – Shea Weber
Mattias Ekholm – Ryan Ellis
Anton Volchenkov – Seth Jones
Scratched: Victor Bartley, Mike Santorelli, Kevin Fiala
Injured: Cody Franson (lower body), Eric Nystrom (lower body)
Status report: Franson participated in the morning skate but is still listed as day-to-day and is not expected to play.
Who's hot: Toews led the Blackhawks with 66 points in the regular season and has five goals in his past eight games. … Forsberg led the Predators with 63 points and has three goals and one assist in his past four games.