(17-8-1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators (17-6-2)
6 P.M. | Bridgestone Arena
TV: FS-TN | Radio: 102.5 The GameTickets
The Nashville Predators are set to face their Central Division rival Chicago Blackhawks for the third time in 2014-15 and host the second meeting in Music City. Nashville fell in overtime against the Hawks in the middle of October before beating Chicago on home ice, thanks to James Neal's natural hat trick. The Predators defeated St. Louis by a 4-3 final on Thursday night, while the Blackhawks beat the Canadiens 4-3 on Friday.
"It's another big game, another divisional game that's really important," goaltender Pekka Rinne said of tonight's contest. "If we could get two points against one of the best teams in the League again [against the Blackhawks], that would be really crucial for us."
"All the games are really important," Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "I think the teams that stay on top, they can win in bunches. It's not win one, lose one, but they can put together strings of wins. There may be a loss in there once in a while, but they do a good job of consistently finding points at the end of the night. To this point, we've been able to do that, but it's still a long way to go in the season, so we have to stay sharp."
After winning all six of their home games in the month of November, Nashville continued their excellent play at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday, beating the Blues and pushing their home record to 11-1-1. Ten of those games have been one-goal decisions, including one victory in overtime and three more in shootouts.
The man credited with Thursday's game-winner for the Preds is one Colin Wilson. Since missing two games in mid-November due to injury, Wilson has tallied seven points (4g-3a) in nine games. Wilson's goal on Thursday was his second game-winner in three games, having recorded the same feat last Saturday against Columbus.
Mike Ribeiro found the back of the net for the third-straight contest on Thursday, posting a goal and two assists against the Blues. His three-game scoring-streak is his longest of the season. Ribeiro is second on the Preds in points with 22 and leads the club in shooting percentage, converting on 25.8 percent of his shots.
Patrick Kane leads Chicago in goals (12) and points (26), four points ahead of fellow forwards Kris Versteeg and Jonathan Toews. Both Kane (12) and Toews (11) have hit double-digits in goals. No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford is currently injured, leaving Antti Raanta and Scott Darling to tend the Chicago cage. Darling, who appeared in 26 games for Nashville's AHL affiliate Milwaukee last season, could get the start against the Preds, with Raanta having played last night against Montreal.
The Preds are 43-39-(4)-7 all-time against Chicago, including a 24-25-(3)-3 record in Music City. Defenseman Ryan Ellis has nine points (3g-6a) and a +12 rating in 12 career games when facing the Blackhawks, while Neal has potted 15 points (10g-5a) in 16 career games against tonight's opponent.
Neither the Predators nor the Blackhawks are holding a morning skate today. Therefore, the following lines are only projected.Projected Nashville Lines:
Forsberg- Ribeiro - Neal
Wilson - Jarnkrok - Smith
Nystrom - Fisher - Beck
Bourque - Jokinen - CullenDefensemen:
Josi - Weber
Ekholm - Ellis
Volchenkov - JonesGoaltenders:
Carter HuttonProjected Chicago Lines:
Saad - Toews - Hossa
Versteeg - Richards - Kane
Bickell - Shaw - Carcillo
Nordstrom - Kruger - SmithDefensemen:
Keith - Seabrook
Hjalmarsson - Oduya
Rundblad - RozsivalGoaltenders: