at NASHVILLE PREDATORS
February 10th, 2013
7:00 p.m. CST
TV: FOX Sports Tennessee
Today sees the first of four meetings this season between the Nashville Predators and the Chicago Blackhawks. The Predators have the league’s top defense, and the Blackhawks have the league’s second-ranked offense.
(5-2-4, 2nd in Central)
The Nashville Predators’ winning streak ended at four games last night after a lackluster effort against the Minnesota Wild took them to overtime, where the Wild were awarded a power play on a terrible penalty call against Paul Gaustad for having the puck hit his hand during a faceoff. Even with the loss, the Nashville Predators’ team defense is still averaging just one goal against per game in its last five games.
The winning streak didn’t end for Pekka Rinne (4-2-3, 1.81 GAA, .933 SV%), who was given the night off as Chris Mason stepped in for relief duty in Minnesota. Rinne’s four wins in a row have seen him give up just three goals, all on the power play. He’s been at the top of his game and the defense has been smothering around him lately. If Nashville wins this game, it’ll be because of Pekka.
Others to watch
Mike Fisher (1G-2A) has been a key defensive presence among Nashville’s forward corps this season, ranking second among all NHL forwards with 18 blocked shots in 11 games. He’s been mostly invisible on offense, though, with points in just two of those 11 games. That’s not the kind of production anybody expects from their top line center. Fisher has missed several open-goal opportunities this season when he couldn’t get a handle on a sharp pass right away. Even if he can’t score against Chicago, he needs to maintain his sharp defense.
(9-0-2, 1st in Central)
The Chicago Blackhawks have enjoyed two days off. They come into tonight’s game with the Nashville Predators refreshed and the owners of the league’s best record.
There’s no doubt that Corey Crawford (6-0-2, 1.82, .930) has benefited from playing behind a team with the second-best offense in the league. But he’s put up some pretty shiny numbers of his own and seems to be playing at a higher level than the past two seasons.
After staying active in Switzerland during the lockout, Patrick Kane (8G-10A) leads the Central Division in points and would be on top of the entire league if not for Thomas Vanek’s incredible start for the Buffalo Sabres.
Others to watch
Duncan Keith (1G-3A) leads the Blackhawks in ice time per game with 24:16. He’s also one of five Chicago players with a negative plus/minus rating (-2).
Nearly half of last night’s Nashville Predators game against Minnesota was played with someone from either team in the penalty box. That won’t do against Chicago, who have scored a quarter of their goals on the power play. If the Preds can apply the same smothering defense to Chicago that they did against L.A. and San Jose, Pekka Rinne should give them a chance to win. Otherwise it could be a long night in Smashville.