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Predators get Rinne back as they face Blackhawks

by Brian Hunter /
PREDATORS (17-9-6) at BLACKHAWKS (18-14-3)


Last 10:
Nashville 8-1-1; Chicago 6-3-1

Season series:
Third of six meetings this season between these Central Division rivals. Nashville has won the first two -- on Oct. 13, Joel Ward scored a power-play goal with 26.7 seconds left in the third period as the Predators rallied for a 3-2 win in Chicago, and exactly one month later Cal O'Reilly scored the only goal of the shootout for a 4-3 victory on home ice.

Big story: Goalie Pekka Rinne has been activated off injured reserve for the Predators, having recovered from arthroscopic knee surgery. Their earlier wins over the Blackhawks were a contributing factor to the defending Stanley Cup champions stumbling a bit out of the gate, but the Hawks have picked up their play lately -- particularly at the United Center, where they've taken six of their last eight. That includes a 4-1 victory over the division-leading Red Wings on Friday and a 3-2 win over the Kings on Sunday.

Team Scope:

Predators: The second game of a back-to-back set wasn't kind to Nashville, which was looking to record a point in a franchise-record 11th straight game, but instead got drubbed 6-1 at home by Los Angeles on Saturday. It was an uncharacteristic effort in almost all facets, including the play of rookie goalie Anders Lindback. Brilliant to that point while filling in for Rinne, he gave up three goals on nine shots and was pulled less than 10 minutes into the game.

"Of course I am disappointed, but that's what you always have to try to do, leave this behind, look over what you could have done better," Lindback said. "I'm just kind of excited for the next game and will try to bounce back."

Blackhawks: There was a lot to feel good about as Chicago edged Los Angeles in a game in which captain Jonathan Toews registered a goal and an assist. The Blackhawks showed tremendous discipline and attention to detail in taking only one minor penalty after not being assessed a single one in the previous game against Detroit. Goals by Duncan Keith and Fernando Pisani in the second period put the Hawks in control.

"We had a good feeling after Detroit and were able to carry it," said goalie Corey Crawford, who made 26 saves. "We played a solid game tonight, definitely kept them to the outside and cleared rebounds."

Who's hot: Ryan Suter has 1 goal and 6 assists during a five-game points streak for the Predators. Steve Sullivan has goals in consecutive games and a four-game points streak. … Toews (2-4-6) and Bryan Bickell (3-2-5) have four-game points streaks for the Blackhawks. Crawford has allowed two goals or fewer in four of his last five starts. 

Injury report:
Sullivan (lower body), David Legwand (lower body), Patric Hornqvist (upper body) and Cody Franson (personal) are all day-to-day for Nashville, while forward Matthew Lombardi (concussion) is on injured reserve. … Chicago could get Viktor Stalberg (upper body) back for this game, while Marian Hossa (lower body) and Patrick Kane (ankle) are more likely to return some time after the holiday break.

Stat pack: Sullivan scored the Predators' only goal against the Kings and became the fourth player to reach 100 during his time with the franchise -- current teammates Legwand (154) and Martin Erat (128) and former captain Jason Arnott (107) are the others. … The Blackhawks have been wise to stay out of the box in their last couple games, as their 79-percent success rate in killing penalties ranks 26th in the League.

Puck drop:
Nashville's first-round playoff series against Chicago last spring turned in Game 5 at the United Center when the Predators let a lead slip away in the final minute of regulation while they were on the power play and then lost in overtime. They turned the tables in their first game back there in October and will look to complete their first sweep of the Blackhawks on their home ice since the 2006-07 season.

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