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Predators may face Blackhawks without Weber

Nashville captain questionable with lower-body injury

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

PREDATORS (29-21-11) at BLACKHAWKS (38-19-5) 

TV: 8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CSN-CH, SNE 

CHICAGO -- Shea Weber took part in the morning skate, but the Nashville Predators captain is questionable to play against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Thursday.

Nashville's top defenseman missed his first game of the season with a lower-body injury in the Predators' 3-2 win at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.

Weber began the morning skate Thursday, but left early. He did not speak to the media after the skate and his status is uncertain.

"He's the captain of our team, from the locker room to his on-ice play," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's a terrific player. When he's out, you miss him. When he's back, you're thankful that he's back."

If Weber doesn't play, rookie Petter Granberg likely will team with Mattias Ekholm on the second defense pair for a second straight game, and Ryan Ellis would stay on the top pair with Roman Josi.

"Everybody has to step up in some way [when Weber's out]," said Josi, who leads the Predators with 44 points. "I thought we did a pretty good job [in Toronto]. Granberg played really well and [Anthony Bitetto] played well too, so it's just a mix of everyone stepping up a little bit."

Weber has 161 career goals and is two away from tying Martin Erat (163) for second all-time in franchise history. He is one power-play point from tying Kimmo Timonen (182) for most in franchise history in that category. 

"He's our captain, our leader on the team and definitely our leader on defense," Josi said. "He's been in the League for such a long time and we have a lot of young defensemen. He's a big presence."

The Predators, 7-0-2 in their past nine road games, are expected to start Pekka Rinne in net. The Blackhawks will start goalie Corey Crawford.

Chicago won't have right wing Marian Hossa (lower-body injury) for the fourth straight game, and Richard Panik will again fill his spot on the top line.

The Blackhawks' bottom two lines were reconfigured during practice Wednesday and remained that way during the morning skate. The biggest switch involves Teuvo Teravainen moving from right wing to center on the third line.

Teravainen has 10 goals and 25 points in 58 games.

"Hopefully there's some offense there," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "That's what we're hoping for, getting some balance and getting Teuvo in the middle, we'll give him a look back in that area and see how it goes."

Teravainen, who has played all three spots up front this season, doesn't have a preference.

"I like playing center, but I think with my game, it doesn't really matter if I'm center or a winger," Teravainen said. "Everybody's pretty responsible for everything, so I'm just playing. I'm not thinking, just playing."

Four other forwards were affected by the shakeup. Andrew Desjardins flipped from left wing to right wing on the third line, rookie center Dennis Rasmussen moved from center of the fourth line to left wing on the third and Jiri Sekac will re-enter the lineup at right wing on the fourth.

Injuries, along with the Blackhawks' 6-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild in a 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday sparked the changes. The third line now has three players with experience playing center.

"We've got a couple guys out, and I think that's part of the process of seeing who can be a good fit where," Quenneville said. "Obviously we're playing to win the game and in games you can try things as well, but going into it, coming off our last game, I don't mind changing things up a little bit and seeing how it works."

Here are the projected lineups:


Calle Jarnkrok - Ryan Johansen - James Neal

Filip Forsberg - Mike Ribeiro - Craig Smith

Colin Wilson - Mike Fisher - Viktor Arvidsson

Miikka Salomaki - Paul Gaustad - Austin Watson

Roman Josi - Ryan Ellis

Mattias Ekholm - Petter Granberg

Barret Jackman - Anthony Bitetto

Pekka Rinne

Carter Hutton

Injured: Shea Weber (lower body), Eric Nystrom (broken foot), Gabriel Bourque (upper body)

Scratched: None


Andrew Shaw - Jonathan Toews - Richard Panik

Artemi Panarin - Artem Anisimov - Patrick Kane

Dennis Rasmussen - Teuvo Teravainen - Andrew Desjardins

Brandon Mashinter - Phillip Danault - Jiri Sekac

Duncan Keith - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Erik Gustafsson - Brent Seabrook

Trevor Van Riemsdyk - Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

Injured: Marian Hossa (lower body), Marcus Kruger (left wrist fracture)

Scratched: Viktor Svedberg

Status report: Sekac has been scratched the past three games. He has played five of 12 games since the Blackhawks acquired him Jan. 21 in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks ... If Weber plays, Ellis will move back with Ekholm at right point on the second pairing.

Who's hot: Forsberg has five goals in the past five games, including a hat trick in the Predators' 3-2 win at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday. ... Kane has five goals and 10 points in the past eight games.

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