CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks could become the first team in the NHL to clinch a Stanley Cup Playoff spot if they pick up at least a point against the Nashville Predators on Sunday night (7 p.m. ET) at United Center.
Meanwhile, it's getting close to do-or-die time for the Predators, who continue to lose forwards to injuries and close games down the stretch run of the season. Nashville dropped a 1-0 game to Chicago on Saturday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena -- continuing a vexing trend of not scoring enough goals -- and now the Predators face the Blackhawks again a little more than 24 hours later without Gabriel Bourque and veteran forwards Paul Gaustad and Mike Fisher.
All three will miss Sunday's game with undisclosed upper-body injuries, and Colin Wilson remains on the injured reserve list with an upper-body injury. Bourque and Gaustad didn't play in the game Saturday, but Fisher did. Now he's out, and forward Austin Watson was recalled Sunday morning from the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League to take his place.
Chicago will play again without second-liners Patrick Sharp, a left wing, and center Dave Bolland. Sharp has missed 13 straight games with an upper-body injury believed to be related to his shoulder, and Bolland sat out Saturday's game with a lower-body injury thought to be a foot issue after he blocked a hard slap shot by Predators defenseman Shea Weber with his skate in the first period of the Blackhawks' 3-2 shootout win on April 1 in Chicago.
Bolland tried two separate times to continue playing, but couldn't and left the game in the second period. He practiced two days later then played against the St. Louis Blues in a 4-3 shootout loss Thursday.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said there is a good chance Sharp will travel with the team to Minnesota on Monday.
Pekka Rinne is expected to get the start for the Predators, who find themselves in 12th place in the Western Conference standings with 38 points, four behind the eighth-place Blues, who played the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday afternoon and have three games in hand on Nashville.
Here's a look at how the Blackhawks and Predators might line up on Sunday night:
Sergei Kostitsyn – Nick Spaling – Matt Halischuk
Taylor Beck – David Legwand – Patric Hornqvist
Richard Clune – Craig Smith – Bobby Butler
Brandon Yip – Chris Mueller – Austin Watson
Roman Josi – Shea Weber
Victor Bartley – Kevin Klein
Hal Gill – Jonathon Blum
Scratched: Paul Gaustad (upper body), Mike Fisher (upper body), Gabriel Bourque (upper body)
Injured: Colin Wilson (IR, upper body)
Brandon Saad – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
Daniel Carcillo – Marcus Kruger – Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell – Andrew Shaw – Viktor Stalberg
Brandon Bollig – Michal Handzus – Michael Frolik
Duncan Keith – Niklas Hjalmarsson
Nick Leddy – Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya – Michal Rozsival
Scratched: Jamal Mayers, Sheldon Brookbank, Dave Bolland (day-to-day, lower body)
Injured: Patrick Sharp (IR, upper body, questionable)