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Blackhawks-Predators Preview

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The Nashville Predators have lost five games in regulation this season. The Chicago Blackhawks are responsible for two of them.

The Central Division-leading Predators try for their fifth straight win and first over the visiting Blackhawks this season when the two teams meet Saturday.

Chicago (9-12-2) beat Nashville (17-5-2) twice in the Predators' first three games of the season, part of an 0-3 start for the Predators. The Blackhawks won 8-6 on Oct. 5 in Nashville and 3-1 in Chicago on Oct. 12. The Predators have won 17 of 21 games since, including their last four.

Nashville, which won five in a row from Oct. 26-Nov. 4, will try to match its longest win streak of the season Saturday.

The Predators got an unlikely goal from enforcer Jordin Tootoo, plus Alexander Radulov's sixth goal of the season in the third period to beat the St. Louis Blues 5-4 Thursday.

"As an energy player, it's always great to get goals," said Tootoo of his first goal of the season and ninth of his career. "I just try to play my role every game and create some room for us. I went down the wing and shot the puck."

Scott Hartnell scored his team-leading ninth goal and fourth in his last three games for Nashville. David Legwand added his seventh and Paul Kariya his sixth for the Predators, who have outscored their opponents 20-8 during their winning streak.

Goaltender Chris Mason made 38 saves to win his third straight game since taking over for starter Tomas Vokoun, who is out at least four weeks with an injured thumb suffered in a 6-0 win over Vancouver on Thanksgiving Day.

Mason, who started 20 games last season, has stopped 107 of 115 shots since replacing Vokoun against Vancouver. He made 28 saves in the most recent loss to the Blackhawks

Nashville signed former Chicago goaltender Michael Leighton this week to back up Mason. Leighton played in 42 games - 39 starts - with a 2.96 goals-against average in two seasons with the Blackhawks, most recently in 2003-04.

The Blackhawks will try to win their season-high third consecutive game and keep new coach Denis Savard perfect since replacing Trent Yawney.

Chicago matched its offensive output from the previous four games with in a 5-2 win over St. Louis at home Friday. It was also the most goals scored by the Blackhawks since a 5-3 win over Colorado on Oct. 16.

The Blackhawks took 32 shots and jumped out to a 3-0 lead, then got two late empty-net goals by Mikael Holmqvist and Martin Lapointe to stop a St. Louis rally.

"We want our guys to be active," Savard said. "That's the only way our team is going to get better. "There's no reason not to be confident," he added. "They showed great character tonight."

Tuomo Ruutu scored his fifth goal in six games, and Tony Salmelainen for the second straight contest. Jeff Hamilton scored his third.

Despite two straight wins since Savard took over, the Blackhawks continue to struggle on the power play, going 0-for-19 with the man advantage in the last six games.

Chicago wemt 2-for-6 on the power play in the first two games against Nashville, while holding the Predators to one goal in 14 power-play chances.

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