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5 Keys: Predators at Blackhawks, Game 2

Nashville looks to take 2-0 series lead; Chicago considers dump-and-chase strategy

by Brian Hedger / NHL.com Correspondent

PREDATORS at BLACKHAWKS

8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports 2 

Nashville leads best-of-7 series 1-0

 

CHICAGO -- The Nashville Predators have a chance to put the Chicago Blackhawks in a spot they've never been during nine straight seasons in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

If Nashville wins Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round at United Center on Saturday, the Predators will be the first team to take a 2-0 series lead on the road against Chicago during the streak.

The Predators, eliminated by the Blackhawks twice in the first round (2010, 2015), can take early control of the series before it shifts to Bridgestone Arena for Games 3 and 4.

Chicago hopes to put more pressure on Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, who made 29 saves in Game 1 for his second NHL postseason shutout.

Here are 5 keys for Game 2:

 

1. Traffic jam

The Blackhawks had success against Rinne in past playoffs by making him work to see the puck. Chicago struggled getting to the middle of the offensive zone in Game 1, and didn't create enough havoc. Rinne saw the puck too easily.

"In order to make it tough on him, we've got to at least try to get second opportunities," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "With no traffic, you get no rebounds and you get an easy save, so we've got to be tougher and harder to play against, certainly, in that area."

Video: NSH@CHI, Gm1: Rinne denies Hossa's shot from the slot

 

2. Nashville's offense

A solid defensive effort was a great way to start, but the Predators can't depend on winning games 1-0 against the high-powered Blackhawks. Nashville likely will be without forward Colin Wilson, its leading scorer in the 2016 playoffs, but the Predators have plenty of talent in their lineup. They finished the regular season fifth in the NHL with a 51.4 shot attempts percentage (SAT%), seventh in shots (31.1 per game) and 11th in goals (235). Nashville needs that kind of offensive success in Game 2.

Video: NSH@CHI, Gm1: Arvidsson tips in Forsberg's dish

 

3. Golden retrievals

The Blackhawks are familiar with opponents clogging the neutral zone and preventing clean entries into the offensive zone. That's especially true in the playoffs, as Nashville showed Thursday. Chicago might resort to a dump-and-chase approach occasionally to loosen up the Predators defense.

"We may have to get rid of the puck to get it back, in order to get through the neutral zone," Quenneville said. "Whether you call it a 1-1-3, a 1-4 or a 1-3-1, they're back and they're ready to play in that area."

 

4. Less bark, more bite

Ken Hitchcock, named coach of the Dallas Stars on Thursday, was asked earlier this season how the Blackhawks won games when they lost the possession battle and were outshot.

"Well, big dogs bite," he said. "Their big dogs bite."

The Predators subdued Chicago's "big dogs" in Game 1, and the Blackhawks can't let that happen again. They especially need more from center Jonathan Toews, who was held without a shot, and right wing Patrick Kane. Including last season, Kane and Toews have one goal between them in their past eight postseason games.

Video: CHI@MIN: Toews, Kane combine to bury OT winner

 

5. Block party

Nashville blocked 26 of Chicago's 66 shot attempts (39 percent) in Game 1, including 14 by defensemen and four by the top forward line. It will be important to keep that going.

"Nobody asked me a question all year about blocking shots, and now I've fielded three within the last two days," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "That was a big part of our win the other night."

 

Predators projected lineup

Filip Forsberg -- Ryan Johansen -- Viktor Arvidsson

Harry Zolnierczyk -- Mike Fisher -- James Neal

Kevin Fiala -- Calle Jarnkrok -- Craig Smith

Pontus Aberg -- Colton Sissons - Austin Watson

Roman Josi -- Ryan Ellis

Mattias Ekholm -- P.K. Subban

Matt Irwin -- Yannick Weber

Pekka Rinne

Juuse Saros

Scratched: Petter Granberg, Miikka Salomaki, PA Parenteau, Brad Hunt, Cody McLeod, Anthony Bitetto

Injured: Colin Wilson (lower body)

 

Blackhawks projected lineup

Ryan Hartman -- Jonathan Toews -- Richard Panik

Artemi Panarin -- Artem Anisimov -- Patrick Kane

Nick Schmaltz -- Marcus Kruger -- Marian Hossa

Dennis Rasmussen -- Tanner Kero -- Jordin Tootoo

Duncan Keith -- Niklas Hjalmarsson

Johnny Oduya -- Brent Seabrook

Brian Campbell -- Trevor van Riemsdyk

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

Scratched: Michal Kempny, John Hayden, Tomas Jurco, Vinnie Hinostroza, Gustav Forsling, Jeff Glass

Injured: Michal Rozsival (facial bone), Andrew Desjardins (lower body)

 

Status report

Wilson didn't participate in Nashville's morning skate and is expected to miss his fourth straight game. … Rasmussen will make his Stanley Cup Playoff debut. Quenneville said Desjardins isn't skating yet but is close to getting back on the ice.

Who's hot

Arvidsson, who scored in Game 1, has 15 points (nine goals, six assists) in his past 16 games dating to the regular season (March 11). Rinne had a 29-save shutout in Game 1 and is 7-3-1 with two shutouts in his past 11 starts. ... Panarin has eight points (seven goals, one assist) in his past eight games.

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