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Predators-Blackhawks Preview

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The Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks have been scoring plenty of goals to start the season. The problem is they also are both giving up plenty of goals.

The Predators and Blackhawks play for the second time this season Thursday when the Central Division rivals meet at the United Center.

Nashville (0-2-0) has scored 11 goals, but has given up 14 in its two defeats. It's a franchise record for most goals allowed in consecutive games.

"We've got 11 goals in the two games and don't have a point to show for it. That's bothersome," coach Barry Trotz said.

Chicago (1-1-0) has scored 12 and surrendered 11 in its first two games. The victory for the Blackhawks was an 8-6 win at Nashville over the Predators in the season opener Oct. 5.

One reason for Nashville's woes is its atrocious penalty killing. The Predators have allowed seven power-play goals in 10 opportunities, including five to the Minnesota Wild in their 6-5 setback Saturday.

"We lost the special teams war again," Trotz said.

It's been a frustrating start for goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who has allowed 13 goals on 66 shots for a save percentage of .803.

"That was like an All-Star game," said Vokoun, who has allowed five or more goals in five of his last seven starts dating back to last season after doing so just twice in his first 55 games of the 2005-06 season.

"You can't win like that in this league. That should never happen. I don't know the answers. It's two horrible games."

Chicago (1-1-0) followed up its big victory over Nashville by blowing an early two-goal lead in a 5-4 loss Saturday to Columbus in its home opener. The Blackhawks may have better penalty killing units thus far in allowing only four power-play goals, but it has been offset by being forced to kill off 17 penalties in the first two games.

Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin had 19 saves in Saturday's loss, but coach Trent Yawney gave him a free pass and criticized the rest of the team following the loss.

"He's going to see guys in his crease in his sleep," Yawney said. "It's very difficult to play disciplined hockey without self-disciplined people. Try it. It doesn't work."

The Blackhawks will need better defensive play to try to slow down the Predators, who had five different goal scorers in last week's matchup. David Legwand scored twice in the loss for Nashville.

Of course, the Predators will have to try to find a better way to contain Blackhawks left wing Martin Havlat. He had two goals and two assists against Nashville and added a goal and an assist in the loss to Columbus.

Havlat and Michal Handzus will be joined on the top line by Radim Vrbata, who skated with the other two in practice Tuesday and will replace Michael Holmqvist.

"I just like the chemistry between the three of them," Yawney said.

Nashville has dropped seven of its last 10 games in Chicago, including the last two.

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