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Game Day: Preds vs. Blackhawks

by Thomas Willis & Brooks Bratten / Nashville Predators

(29-21-11) Nashville Predators vs. Chicago Blackhawks (38-19-5)
  7 P.M. (CT) | United Center | #NSHvsCHI
TV: NBCSN | Radio: 102.5 The Game


The Nashville Predators finish up their current three-game road trip tonight in Chicago as they take on the Blackhawks from the United Center for the fifth and final time this season. The Hawks hold a 3-1-0 advantage over the Predators on the campaign.

The Preds have collected all four available points thus far on the trip, including a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night. Nashville has points in seven-straight games overall, and at least one point in nine consecutive road games, a franchise record. Nashville has earned 11 of a possible 14 points in their last seven games (4-0-3 record, .825 point percentage).

Chicago last played on Sunday in the NHL Stadium Series in Minnesota, falling 6-1 to the Wild. The Blackhawks are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games and are 22-7-2 at the United Center this season.

Filip Forsberg posted his first-career, regular-season hat trick on Tuesday against the Leafs, becoming the youngest player in franchise history to ever post a hat trick at 21 years, 194 days. Forsberg has nine goals in his last nine games and his 12 points lead the team in the month of February. Forsberg's effort on Tuesday was the fifth natural hat trick and 25th in franchise history.

Roman Josi, who leads the Preds in points, notched two helpers in the contest to register his 11th multipoint game of the season. The Preds have a 7-1-3 record this season when he posts two points in a game.

Goaltender Pekka Rinne tallied his third shutout of the season – and the 39th of his career – last Thursday night against the Boston Bruins. Rinne's next shutout will make him the fifth active NHL goaltender with 40 career shutouts, joining Roberto Luongo, Henrik Lundqvist, Marc-Andre Fleury and Jonathan Quick.

The Preds continue to own the League's highest-scoring defensive unit, lead by Josi and Captain Shea Weber, with 150 points coming from the backend. Josi paces Nashville with 44 points (11g-33a), while Weber leads the d-corps with 15 goals. Preds defensemen are first in the NHL in goals with 41. The Blackhawks are fourth in the NHL in points from the blue line with 129.

Forsberg is second on the team in points with 42, including a club-leading 23 goals. James Neal is second on the Preds with 21 goals, followed by Weber and Craig Smith, who have 15 and 13 tallies, respectively. Mike Ribeiro's 39 points are third on the team; his 33 assists are first. Rinne is 22-18-9 between the pipes this season.
 
Defenseman Ryan Ellis has four career goals versus the Blackhawks, tying his career high against one team. Forsberg has a goal in two of his last three games versus the Blackhawks (2g); Ribeiro has a point in two of his last three games against Chicago (1g-2a).

Patrick Kane leads the Blackhawks, and the League, with 84 points. Kane's 35 goals are tops on his team, followed by rookie Artemi Panarin's 22 goals. Panarin's 57 points are also second on the team, followed by Jonathan Toews with 21 goals and 43 points. Defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have 38 and 37 points, respectively. Corey Crawford is 32-15-3 in goal this season.

Ribeiro leads the team in points against Chicago with three (1g-2a), while Forsberg and Neal each have two goals to lead the goal-scoring department. Nashville has been exceptional on the penalty kill versus Chicago, killing 11-of-12 penalties (91.7 percent).
 
All-time, Nashville holds a 44-43-12 record in the series vs. Chicago, including a 19-25-6 mark at the United Center.

Unbreakable Jackman:

It didn’t require a medical degree to see that Barret Jackman’s collision into the endboards on Saturday night versus the Kings didn’t look good. The defenseman was down for a few minutes, eventually leaving for the locker room and remaining out of the lineup for the rest of the game.

But on Monday in Montreal, Jackman took the morning skate with his teammates, and after sitting out against the Canadiens, the veteran blueliner was back in the lineup on Tuesday against Toronto, providing a sigh of relief to everyone involved.

Despite the fact Jackman plays a tougher role, constantly blocking shots and throwing his weight around, he has consistently played in a majority, if not all 82 games of the NHL regular season, as his 14-year career has gone along.

“You always want to be in the lineup,” Jackman said Thursday after the team’s morning skate at the United Center in Chicago. “You want to help. Whether it’s little injuries or big injuries, it’s tough sitting on the sidelines, so it’s good to be out there to battle with the boys and I’m glad it was only one game.”

“He’s a tough guy,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of Jackman. “He’s a guy who wants to play no matter what, and he’s that type of a player. It was good [the injury] wasn’t anything major.”

Jackman and his teammates look to continue their franchise-record road streak of collecting at least a point in nine consecutive games away from home. The Preds maintain there isn’t anything major they’re doing differently on the road, but rather it’s the simple fact they’ve been playing better overall as of late, leading to their recent success.

“On the road, sometimes you kind of simplify things,” Jackman said. “You’re not trying to make that pretty play and impress the fans too much, so maybe that’s a little bit of it, but I think all around, we’re playing a much better game defensively and putting the puck in the net when we have our opportunities.”

The Chicago Blackhawks will try to end Nashville’s road streak tonight in a building where they Preds haven’t won since March of 2014, including the postseason. All streaks come to an end eventually; the Predators just hope it’s the one that works out in their favor.

“You definitely has a little bit of extra juice into your game,” Jackman said of facing the Hawks. “When you get to match up against the best, everybody’s got to bring their A game and hopefully get the win.”

Captain’s Status:

Preds d-man Shea Weber, who missed Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Maple Leafs with a lower-body injury, returned to the ice for part of the team’s morning skate on Thursday. Nashville’s captain took his traditional place alongside Roman Josi during line rushes, but then left before the conclusion of the morning session.

"He's the captain of our team, from the locker room to his on-ice play, he's a terrific player,” Laviolette said of Weber. “When he's out, you miss him. When he's back, you're thankful that he's back.”


Projected Lineups:

Nashville Predators:

Forwards
Calle Jarnkrok Ryan Johansen James Neal
Filip Forsberg Mike Ribeiro Craig Smith
Colin Wilson Mike Fisher Viktor Arvidsson
Miikka Salomaki Paul Gaustad Austin Watson
Defense
Roman Josi Shea Weber
Mattias Ekholm Ryan Ellis
Barret Jackman Anthony Bitetto

i

Goaltenders: Pekka Rinne was the first goaltender off the ice after the morning skate and is the projected starter in net with Carter Hutton serving as the backup.

Extra: (D) Petter Granberg, Gabriel Bourque (IR; upper-body), (F) Eric Nystrom (IR; lower-body)


Chicago Blackhawks:

Forwards
Andrew Shaw Jonathan Toews Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin Artem Anisimov Patrick Kane
Dennis Rasmussen Teuvo Teravainen Andrew Desjardins
Brandon Mashinter Phillip Danault Jiri Sekac
Defense
Duncan Keith Niklas Hjalmarsson
Erik Gustafsson Brent Seabrook
Trevor van Riemsdyk Michal Rozsival

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Goaltenders: Corey Crawford is the projected starter in net with Scott Darling serving as the backup.

Extra: (D) Viktor Svedberg, (F) Marcus Kruger, (F) Marian Hossa

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