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Predators-Blackhawks Preview

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The Chicago Blackhawks have been one of the hottest teams in the NHL over the last three weeks. They've been the best against the Nashville Predators all season.

The surging Blackhawks go for their fourth straight win over the Predators in 2006-07 when the Central Division rivals meet Wednesday at the United Center.

After losing 14 of its first 21 games, Chicago has gone 7-1-3 since Denis Savard took over for the fired Trent Yawney on Nov. 27. The Blackhawks (14-13-5) have won four of their last five, including a 2-1 victory over Colorado on Sunday.

Adrian Aucoin returned to the ice after missing 11 games with a groin injury and scored the game-winner on a power play for the Blackhawks.

"He has one of the best shots in the NHL," Savard said. "It's one of his strengths. It was a good comeback game for him."

Nikolai Khabibulin has started 10 games under Savard and made 28 saves Sunday to boost his goals-against average to 1.97 in that span.

"I think it's easier when you play more," said Khabibulin, who is 8-5-0 with a tie and a 2.90 GAA during his career against Nashville, including four straight wins. "It's easier to come out and just worry about playing."

The Blackhawks have had little to worry about at home recently, going 6-1-1 in their last eight games. They look to continue that success against the Predators, who they've beaten three times this season and in five of the last six meetings.

Chicago center Jeff Hamilton has four goals and an assist against Nashville this season, including a hat trick and an assist in a 4-3 overtime win on Dec. 2. Right wing Martin Havlat, who missed 19 games this season with a sprained ankle, has three goals and three assists in two meetings with the Predators in 2006-07.

Nashville (22-8-3), which leads the Central Division with 47 points, is trying to match its season-high win streak at five games after beating St. Louis 2-1 in overtime Sunday to conclude a home-and-home series with the Blues.

The Predators had 11 power plays, tied for second-most in franchise history, but didn't capitalize until 3:11 into the extra session when Kimmo Timonen scored on a 4-on-3 advantage.

"We felt if we kept working and skating and doing the right things, they were going to come unglued, and they did," said Predators coach Barry Trotz, whose team outshot St. Louis 17-4 over the third period and overtime. "They took way too many penalties, and every penalty was deserved.

"When you give us enough power plays, we'll score eventually."

Chris Mason, who stopped 22 shots Sunday, is 3-4-1 with a 2.11 GAA in 10 career games against the Blackhawks. Timonen has two goals and two assists in the three losses to Chicago this season.

Nashville forward Alexander Radulov left in the opening period Sunday with an upper body injury and didn't return, but the team said he might not miss any games. The Predators recalled defenseman Mikko Lehtonen from the AHL on Monday.

The Blackhawks were without defenseman Brent Seabrook Sunday due to back spasms and his status is uncertain for Wednesday.

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