By Amanda DiPaolo
Nashville Predators 17-9-6
Chicago Blackhawks 18-14-3
Only one point separates Nashville from Chicago in the standings, so Wednesday night’s contest will be an important battle for positioning in the Western Conference standings. The Predators have a pretty even road record, 9-7-1, while Chicago does not have a “lights out” record at home going 10-9-0 at the United Center.
Wednesday night’s game is the third meeting between the two teams. Nashville won both previous contests in tightly played games. On October 13th, Nashville edged Chicago 3-2, with Joel Ward scoring in the last minute of regulation for the win. On November 13th, the Predators hosted the Blackhawks and won in a shootout, 4-3. All of Nashville’s goals in regulation were scored by defensemen, Shane O’Brien, Shea Weber and Cody Franson with the tallies.
The Predators are coming off of a 6-1 thumping at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night. Before the loss, Nashville had collected points in its previous 10 games going 8-0-2 during that span. The Blackhawks are winners of two straight, last time out edging the Kings 3-2 on Sunday.
Big news out of Nashville is that the roster is inching ever so closely towards being healthy. Pekka Rinne returns to the lineup Wednesday night after missing eight games with a lower-body injury. Rookie netminder Anders Lindback posted a 6-1-1 record in Rinne’s absence with a 1.91 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage. Playing back to backs on Wednesday and Thursday, it is likely that Rinne and Lindback will be sharing duties before the two-day Christmas break.
Forwards Patric Hornqvist and David Legwand are also close to returning. According to The Tennessean, both forwards practiced individually and were on the ice for the team’s optional skate Monday. Hornqvist also said he was good to go for Wednesday night. Hornqvist practiced with the team on Tuesday. Legwand did not practice and is expected to miss the next couple of games.
Chicago has some big names out of the lineup. Marian Hossa is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. Patrick Kane and Viktor Stalberg are both questionable for Wednesday’s game against Nashville. Kane has a left ankle injury. Stalberg is listed as having an upper-body ailment. Hossa and Stalberg both practiced on Tuesday. Kane was not on the ice at Tuesday’s practice.
Watch for Sergei Kostitsyn to get the offense going again on Wednesday night. Kostitsyn had an eight-game point streak end on Saturday night against the Kings, but Kostitsyn, has 3 goals and 7 assists in his last nine games.
Ryan Suter is another player that is hot for Nashville, currently riding a five-game points streak (1 goal, 6 assists). In fact, Suter is tied with Cal O’Reilly for the team lead in assists with 12. Suter’s partner and team captain Shea Weber has also found some offense with five points in his last five games, scoring 1 goal and adding 4 assists during that span.
After Wednesday night’s game in Chicago, the Predators return home to Nashville to take on the Ottawa Senators before the two-day NHL Christmas break. The Predators are back in action on Boxing Day when they take to the road and visit division rivals the St. Louis Blues.
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Topics: Anders Lindback, Chicago Blackhawks, Cody Franson, Marian Hossa, Nashville Predators, NHL, Ottawa Senators, Patric Hornqvist, Patrick Kane, Pekka Rinne, Ryan Suter, Sergei Kostitsyn, Shane O'Brien, Shea Weber, St. Louis Blues