When the Nashville Predators traded goaltender Tomas Vokoun in June, they believed Chris Mason would successfully step into the starting role. Dan Ellis, though, has lately been the better option.
The Predators go for their season-high third straight win as they continue a five-game road trip on Sunday night against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Vokoun notched franchise records with 161 wins and 21 shutouts over eight seasons with the Predators before being traded to Florida. Mason - who had 24 wins, five shutouts and a 2.38 goals-against average last season - has struggled to go 0-7-0 with a 5.08 GAA in his last seven starts this year.
Ellis, who had appeared in just one NHL game in 2004 prior to signing as a free agent in July, has gone on an amazing run with Nashville (6-7-0). A second-round pick by Dallas in 2000, Ellis has given up just four goals while winning his last four starts and has posted two shutouts.
Ellis made 30 saves on Friday in a 4-1 victory over the Oilers. One night earlier, he turned aside all 29 shots he faced to beat Vancouver 3-0.
"It always gives you confidence when a coach puts you in back-to-back, but every time I've been in net the whole team has played unbelievable," Ellis told the Predators' official Web site.
Ellis has never faced the Blackhawks, while Mason is 4-3-0 with a 2.16 GAA over eight career starts in Chicago.
The Predators have followed up a season-high six-game skid by winning four of five. David Legwand leads Nashville with five assists and seven points while Vernon Fiddler has netted a team-high three goals in that stretch.
"Now everyone is getting some confidence, and everyone is contributing instead of just a couple guys here and there," Nashville associate coach Brent Peterson said. "By doing so we are putting more pressure on our opponent so it is nice to get everyone going."
Legwand has four goals and six assists in a five-game points streak against the Blackhawks. The Predators went 4-2-2 against Chicago last season, and have won three straight at the United Center.
Nashville will try to slow down Patrick Sharp, who scored two short-handed goals in the third period on Saturday to rally Chicago to a 3-2 road win over St. Louis.
The Blackhawks scored two short-handed goals in a game for the first time since Sharp and Kyle Calder did so against Detroit on April 13, 2006. Sharp is the first Chicago player to notch two short-handed tallies in one game since Steve Sullivan - currently injured with Nashville - did it on Jan. 26, 2001 versus Colorado.
"That's the first time that's ever happened to me," Sharp said. "We have forwards that can skate in here that want to have short shifts and keep our legs fresh. So both of those goals were results of speed up ice and aggressiveness."
Neither Patrick Kane nor Jonathan Toews had a point in the win. Kane was named NHL rookie of the month for October after scoring five goals and 11 assists. Toews, who missed the first two games of the season with a broken finger, failed to record a point for the first time in his career after picking up five goals and five assists over his first 10 games.
Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin has lost his last four starts against the Predators, meaning Patrick Lalime may get the start. Lalime is 4-5-1 with a 2.21 GAA in his career against Nashville.
Chicago (7-6-0) is looking for its first three-game winning streak this season.