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Predators host Blackhawks in first-place showdown

by Robby Stanley / NHL.com

BLACKHAWKS (17-8-1) at PREDATORS (17-6-2)

TV: FX-CA; CSN-CA, FS-TN

NASHVILLE – The Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators will play Saturday at Bridgestone Arena in a battle of Central Division rivals.

Nashville enters the game Saturday in first place in the Central Divison with 36 points. Chicago has 35 points and has won eight of its past nine games, including five in a row.

Special teams will be an important part of the game Saturday. Chicago has the best penalty kill in the NHL (91.0%) while Nashville’s power play is 1-for-43 (2.3%) at home this season. Nashville hasn’t scored a power play goal at home since its first game of the season against the Ottawa Senators.

Chicago won 2-1 in overtime in the first game on Oct. 18 at United Center. Nashville won 3-2 on Oct. 23 at Bridgestone Arena.

Predators forward James Neal recorded a hat trick on Oct. 23 in the win. The Blackhawks outshot the Predators 17-6 in the third period, but Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne was able to secure the victory.

Chicago defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 on Friday with a goal from Brandon Saad with 27 seconds remaining in regulation. Antti Raanta started in goal for Chicago and made 38 saves on 41 shots.

The Predators defeated the St. Louis Blues 4-3 on Thursday. Colin Wilson scored the game-winner on a breakaway in the third period against Blues goaltender Martin Brodeur.

Nashville has won seven consecutive games at home and has an 11-1-1 record at home this season.

Here are the projected lineups:

BLACKHAWKS

Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa

Kris VersteegBrad RichardsPatrick Kane

Bryan BickellAndrew ShawDaniel Carcillo

Joakim NordstromMarcus KrugerBen Smith

Duncan KeithBrent Seabrook

Niklas HjalmarssonJohnny Oduya

Klas DahlbeckMichal Rozsival

Scott Darling

Antti Raanta

Scratched: David Rundblad, Jeremy Morin

Injured: Patrick Sharp (lower body), Corey Crawford (lower body), Trevor van Riemsdyk (left patella fracture)

PREDATORS

Filip ForsbergMike RibeiroJames Neal

Colin WilsonCalle JarnkrokCraig Smith

Eric NystromMike FisherTaylor Beck

Gabriel BourqueOlli JokinenMatt Cullen

Roman JosiShea Weber

Anton VolchenkovSeth Jones

Mattias EkholmRyan Ellis

Pekka Rinne

Carter Hutton

Scratched: Victor Bartley

Injured: Paul Gaustad (lower body), Derek Roy (upper body), Viktor Stalberg (lower body)

Status report: Neither team held a morning skate. … Dahlbeck was recalled from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League on Wednesday and could play Saturday. … Darling could start for Chicago after Raanta faced 41 shots against Montreal. … Gaustad missed the game Thursday with a lower body injury and is listed as day-to-day.

Who’s hot: Versteeg has eight points in his past four games. … Ribeiro has five points in his past three games, including a goal in each game.

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