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Blackhawks top struggling Predators 3-1 @NHLdotcom

Cristobal Huet had a bounce-back game, though no one could say the Chicago Blackhawks' goaltender was overworked.

Dustin Byfuglien and Tomas Kopecky scored 28 seconds apart early in the second period and Huet made the lead stand up as the Blackhawks went on to a 3-1 win over the struggling Nashville Predators on Thursday night at the Sommet Center.

Duncan Keith added a third-period goal for Chicago, which leads the Central Division with a 5-1-1 record.

Huet faced only 13 shots, stopping them all with the exception of a Martin Erat score in the second. The veteran goalie was pulled Monday against Calgary after allowing three goals on the first five shots he faced in a game Chicago rallied from five goals down to win in overtime. Antti Niemi, who relieved Huet against the Flames, then started and won against Edmonton on Wednesday.

"There were a lot of tricky plays around the net," Huet said. "For the most part I felt good. I think the guys played a very complete game.

"It was important to get the win. I try not to be too down or to be too high. Games like this are challenging mentally, but they are good too. That means the team is playing hard in front of you."

Huet, who inherited the starting job after Nikolai Khabibulin left for Edmonton via free agency, has a 2-1-1 record with a 3.06 goals-against average and .845 save percentage. Niemi is 3-0-0 with a 1.73 GAA and .912 save percentage, along with a shutout of Florida while playing in his native Finland during the 2009 Compuware/NHL Premiere.

"He got a good win," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said of Huet. "He handled the puck well. I think it helped him and it helped us. There is no problem with Huet. I do not anticipate changing goaltenders."

Nashville (2-4-0) lost its fourth straight, although the Predators played much better than they had in the previous two defeats -- in which they were outscored 12-1 by Edmonton and Dallas.

"Our bench could have wilted and said, 'Here we go again,'" Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "We skated and didn't stand around. We went after a very good team. We stayed with a pretty good structure."

A hooking penalty to Francis Bouillon led to Byfuglien's power-play goal just nine seconds later. Brent Seabrook hit the post with a drive from the point and Byfuglien was stationed in the right spot in front of goalie Pekka Rinne to convert the rebound at 2:21.

Kopecky, who scored 13 goals over parts of four seasons in Detroit, then registered his first goal with Chicago, beating Rinne at 2:49 for a 2-0 lead.

Erat wasted little time himself cutting the lead in half, putting the puck past Huet at 3:36 with the aid of a deflection off Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson.

"I did score a goal, but it’s not enough," Erat said. "We need to score more goals if we want to win games. We didn’t do it today and we just need to regroup and get some wins on the road."

It stayed a one-goal game into the third, when Keith supplied some insurance by beating Rinne at 7:07 with a one-timer from the top of the left circle.

"I think it has been a good team effort the last little while," Keith said. "Everyone is contributing. Huet played great. The defense played well. I think the forwards have been working well together."

-- Brian Hunter,

Material from wire services and team online media was used in this report

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