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Game Day: Preds vs. Blackhawks

Preds Visit Blackhawks in First Road Game; Seek More Special Teams Success

by Brooks Bratten & Thomas Willis @PredsNHL /

The Nashville Predators took about 90 minutes to enjoy their 3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Opening Night at Bridgestone Arena, but then quickly their focus shifted.

The Preds and Hawks are set for a rematch tonight at the United Center in the Windy City in a back-to-back between the Central Division Rivals.

As Nashville looks to go 2-0-0 for the third consecutive season, here are three things to watch for tonight in Chicago.

Injury Update:

Anthony Bitetto is out for tonight's games with an upper-body injury. The defenseman will be re-evaluated on Monday back in Nashville. In the interim, blueliner Yannick Weber is expected to log his first game with the Predators on Saturday evening.

"Yannick's a good puck-moving defenseman," Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette said on Saturday morning. "He's aggressive in his style and the way he plays the game. He had a good training camp for us. Just by numbers and through conversations - but more just the numbers - we can only dress six [so he started out of the lineup]. It'll be a good opportunity for him to get going."

Saturday Special:

All three of Nashville's goals on Friday night came on the power play, courtesy of P.K. Subban, Roman Josi and Mike Fisher. Chicago has now given up six power-play goals in two games this season. On the contrary, Nashville went a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill, winning the special teams battle by a wide margin. If the Preds are able to find success against the struggling Blackhawks penalty kill once more, it could render a similar result this evening.

"I thought the puck movement was really good, the support in the offensive zone too," Laviolette said of the Preds power play. "We were able to get into the zone on entries, we were able to get set up, and once we got set up, they were aggressive in their approach, so we really had to work to support each other. When one guy got pressure, there was always an out or two available to keep the puck moving in the offensive zone. Once we got set up, we had good movement up high and got some shots we were looking for."

"We were moving the puck around fast, supporting each other and winning battles and shooting the puck. It really wasn't anything fancy or surprising, or a trick or anything like that," center Ryan Johansen, who had three assists on the power play, said. "It was just get the puck, find the lane, shoot it with a screen, get in the goalie's eyes and hopefully score some goals. It was great to get off to a good start like we did with our special teams."

Forward Thinking:

Head Coach Peter Laviolette was pleased with the line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Kevin Fiala in his club's opener, believing they could've had a goal or two on Friday night. Johansen dished out three assists on the power play yesterday, and with the amount of skill on the three-man unit, it could be sooner rather than later before they manage to find the back of the net.

Short and Sweet:

Although it's early in the season, back-to-back matchups are never easy on the legs. With no morning skate, the Preds will look to rest up, and then likely follow up with managing their shifts tonight as the game moves along. The goaltending matchup will be one to watch as well; will the Preds and Hawks stick with their aces in Pekka Rinne and Corey Crawford, who each started last night? Or will someone turn to their backup - Marek Mazanec or Scott Darling?

"There's always a plan with regard to the goaltenders, a lot of times plans go out the window. But there's always a plan in place, and there's a thought process that goes into it," Laviolette said. "We've had those discussions, and we'll try to do what's best for the individuals and what's best for the team."

"You're so focused on that first game trying to get that first win, and now here we are in Chicago. I'm going to have a nap and get right back at it," said Johansen. "It really takes more focus and preparation right now, which we've already done this morning going over some video. Once we get to the rink, we'll go over some more stuff. But mostly it's about doing the best with our game plan and working hard at that. It sounds like a simple thing, but going out there and winning our battles, out work them as a team."

Take It In:

Tonight's 7:30 p.m. (CT) puck drop can be seen on Fox Sports Tennessee, with Predators Live! presented by Nissan getting underway at 7:00, with Willy Daunic, Stu Grimson and Lyndsay Rowley leading the coverage. The game can also be heard on 102.5 The Game and the Predators Radio Network with Pete Weber and Brent Peterson on the call.

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