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Blackhawks look for revenge vs. Predators

by Brian Hedger

PREDATORS (30-31-10) AT BLACKHAWKS (41-15-15)


Last 10: Nashville 4-6-0; Chicago 6-3-1

Season series: This is the fourth of five games between the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks. The Predators trail the Blackhawks by 27 points in the Central Division standings, but they've won two of the first three games, including a 3-2 victory on March 14 at United Center.

Big story: Despite missing several key players, including first-line right wing Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks have moved within four points of the St. Louis Blues for the top spot in the Central Division. Nashville hasn't officially been eliminated from contention for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the Predators sit last in the Central and face long odds to avoid missing the postseason a second straight year.

Team Scope:

Predators: After the win against the Blackhawks nine days ago, Nashville lost three straight games before ending their slide Friday night at the Calgary Flames. Talented rookie forward Calle Jarnkrok, who came to the Predators in a trade that sent David Legwand to the Detroit Red Wings, made his NHL debut and assisted on a goal by former Blackhawks forward Viktor Stalberg.

Matt Cullen had a four-point night (one goal and three assists) against the Flames in the 6-5 victory and said the Predators are clinging to their slim playoff hopes until they are officially eliminated.

"I don't know what the numbers are or where it sits as far as what we need, but you're never out of it until you're out of it," Cullen said. "We're going to keep playing and keep trying to win games and we'll see what happens."

Blackhawks: Despite the absence of Kane, who isn't expected to play again in the regular season due to a lower-body injury, as well as forwards Bryan Bickell (upper body) and Brandon Saad (upper body), and defenseman Michal Rozsival (lower body), Chicago is starting to turn up the intensity heading down the final stretch of the regular season. If the Blues lose in regulation at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, NHLN) and the Blackhawks beat the Predators, the defending Stanley Cup champions will be within two points of St. Louis, which still has a game in hand.

"There's still some hockey to be played and some important games, where it's going to mean a lot as far as the standings, whether it's home-ice advantage or not," Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith told "We're going to try and play our best hockey going into the playoffs."

Who's hot: Nashville forward Patric Hornqvist had a goal and two assists against Calgary and has two goals and three assists in his past five games. ... Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews has nine goals and two assists in the past 11 games.

Injury report: Predators center Paul Gaustad missed the game in Calgary with an upper-body injury. ... Kane (lower body) is out until the Stanley Cup Playoffs, forwards Saad (upper body) and Bickell (upper body) are day-to-day, and defenseman Rozsival (lower body) is likely miss the game.

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