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Preview: Blackhawks at Predators

Chicago goes for seventh straight win; Nashville without defenseman Ryan Ellis

by Robby Stanley / Correspondent

BLACKHAWKS (41-18-5) at PREDATORS (32-23-9)

8 p.m. ET; FS-TN, CSN-CH, NHL.TV


Blackhawks team scope

The Chicago Blackhawks can take over first place in the Central Division and the Western Conference by defeating the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. The Blackhawks have won six in a row and are 11-1-0 in their past 12 games; a victory will move them ahead of the idle Minnesota Wild, though Chicago will have played three more games. The Blackhawks rallied for a 2-1 shootout win against the New York Islanders on Friday despite playing without forwards Artem Anisimov and Nick Schmaltz and defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya. There is a chance Anisimov and Schmaltz each could play against the Predators, coach Joel Quenneville said. Backup goalie Scott Darling sustained an upper-body injury at the morning skate Friday and will miss three weeks. "With injuries, I don't think there's any good timing," Quenneville said after the game against the Islanders. "I think that's all part of our game. The last couple of days have been a little bit uncertain as far as our health or our lineup and our look. I commend the guys staying focused again."


Predators team scope

Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis won't play because of a lower-body injury. He left during the second period of a 2-1 loss at the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday and did not return. Matt Irwin filled his spot alongside Roman Josi at the morning skate Saturday. "He's played great," captain Mike Fisher said of Irwin. "He's been solid all year. He's played some really quality minutes, and whenever he's been out there he's been solid and steady for us and done a really good job. I can't say enough about him as a teammate. The way he's played, it's been fun to see." Anthony Bitetto is expected to replace Ellis in the lineup. The Predators are third in the Central Division and could play the Blackhawks in the Western Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. "There's a chance, no question [of seeing the Blackhawks in the playoffs]," Fisher said. "All of these games, we know, are so important. Against Chicago, they're always heated battles and great games. We're playing against a really good hockey team, and they're going to force us to be at our best."


Blackhawks projected lineup

Ryan Hartman -- Jonathan Toews -- Richard Panik

Artemi Panarin -- Tanner Kero -- Patrick Kane

Tomas Jurco -- Marcus Kruger -- Marian Hossa

Andrew Desjardins -- Dennis Rasmussen -- Jordin Tootoo

Duncan Keith -- Brent Seabrook

Brian Campbell -- Trevor van Riemsdyk

Michal Kempny -- Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford

Jeff Glass

Scratched: None

Injured: Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body), Artem Anisimov (lower body), Nick Schmaltz (illness), Johnny Oduya (ankle), Scott Darling (upper body)


Predators projected lineup

Filip Forsberg -- Ryan Johansen -- Viktor Arvidsson

Colin Wilson -- Calle Jarnkrok -- James Neal

Kevin Fiala -- Mike Fisher -- Craig Smith

Cody McLeod -- Vernon Fiddler -- Austin Watson

Mattias Ekholm -- P.K. Subban

Roman Josi -- Matt Irwin

Anthony Bitetto -- Yannick Weber

Juuse Saros

Pekka Rinne

Scratched: Brad Hunt, Colton Sissons, Harry Zolnierczyk

Injured: Ryan Ellis (lower body) , PA Parenteau (finger), Miikka Salomaki (lower body)


Status report

Quenneville said after the win Friday he would decide Saturday who would start in goal. If Glass plays, it would be his NHL debut. … Saros occupied the starter's net at the morning skate for Nashville.


Who's hot

Kane has eight points (seven goals, one assist) in his past four games. Toews has 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in his past eight games. … Forsberg has 14 points (10 goals, four assists) in his past seven games. Josi has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in his past seven games.

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