Feb 10, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Andrew Shaw (65) and Nashville Predators left wing Rich Clune (16) fall to the ice during a fight in the second period at Bridgestone Arena. The Blackhawks beat the Predators 3-0. (PHOTO: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)

Gameday: Nashville Predators at Chicago Blackhawks, 4/19/13

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

at CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

April 19th, 2013
United Center
Chicago, Illinois
7:30 p.m. CDT
TV: NBC Sports Network
Chicago leads season series 4-0

The Chicago Blackhawks are one of a handful of teams the Nashville Predators have actually played well against this season. Not well enough to win, obviously, but well enough to put a scare in the ‘Hawks in a few one-goal games and another where Chicago was forced to make a third-period comeback. That doesn’t count for much, but in a season as dismal as this one you have to hang your hat on something. Playing the league’s best team close is as good as anything else Nashville has.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

(33-5-4, 1st in Central)

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Chicago Blackhawks

Corey Crawford has enjoyed the best season of his career this year. (PHOTO: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Within a week of clinching the Presidents Trophy that was set aside for them earlier this season after they ran off 24 games without a regulation loss, the Chicago Blackhawks are already looking ahead to the playoffs.

Key players

With Ray Emery listed as doubtful, Corey Crawford (17-4-4, 1.92 GAA, .926 SV%) will get the start tonight. His record might not be quite as impressive as Emery’s mark of 16-1-0, but all his other numbers are nearly identical. There’s no easy road for opponents no matter who’s in net for Chicago.

NHL: Nashville Predators at Chicago Blackhawks

He pretty much does it all. (PHOTO: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)

I personally prefer averting my eyes anytime he’s on the ice lest I be reminded of that awful playoff mullet he sported a few years back, but Patrick Kane (20G-27A) is the engine of the Blackhawks’ offense. His eight power-play goals are five more than anyone else on the team and rank fifth in the NHL.

Others to watch

Brandon Saad (9G-15A) has turned in quite the rookie season, ranking fourth on the team in scoring behind only Kane, Jonathan Toews (21G-23A), and Marian Hossa (16G-12A). His name should be in strong consideration for the Calder Trophy, even if he ends up being overshadowed by players who contributed slightly more to lesser teams.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

(15-22-8, 5th in Central)

If I were commissioner I’d think about instituting a mercy rule for lockout seasons: if you lose seven games in a row to sink from playoff contention, you don’t have to play out your last four. Unfortunately for the Nashville Predators, I’m not the commissioner.

Key players

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Nashville Predators

Neither is exactly prolific, but these are the Nashville Predators’ two leading scorers. (PHOTO: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)

The three guys wearing letters on their sweaters lead the Preds in scoring with just four games remaining on the schedule. David Legwand (11G-12A) slept most of the early part of the season before realizing he was late for a very important date. Shea Weber (8G-15A) also started slow before scoring consistently for about 20 games. And Mike Fisher (9G-10A) was on a roll before being injured while blocking a shot. Fisher likely won’t play again tonight, but the other two will be Nashville’s best bets to score, even if they’re still long-shots.

Others to watch

 

NHL: Nashville Predators at Dallas Stars

Two goals in three games and a whole lot of forechecking, a.k.a the Bobby Butler plan for returning to Nashville next season. (PHOTO: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Bobby Butler (3G-5A) is a testament to how powerful it is to actually have something to play for. On an underperforming team where the vast majority of the players already have contracts signed for next season, the potential restricted free agent has two goals in the last three games and has been driving the play every chance he gets. That embarrassing penalty shot earlier this week aside, he has been making a convincing push to remain with the Predators in the dwindling moments of this season.

Poor Pekka Rinne (14-16-7, 2.35, .914). He deserved better than this season.

Bottom line

There will be one very good team on the ice tonight and one that’s broken beyond recognition. Nashville stands only the slightest chance of winning this game…and it feels like that chance is even lower when you have to sit through the game on NBC Sports Network. Silver lining: only three more games after this one before the pain stops for good.

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Tags: Chicago Blackhawks Nashville Predators

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