The Nashville Predators will attempt to wrap up a perfect three-game road trip when they take on the Chicago Blackhawks tonight.
The No. 1 offense in the NHL will host the Predators for the first time this season, the clubs have split their previous two meetings.
Built from the net out, Nashville (28-28-10) will attempt to claim two points by limiting Chicago’s (38-14-14) stacked lineup of forwards including 60-point scorers: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp.
Three things to watch for in this evening’s contest:
- Rinne against top talent: Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne will make his first start against Nashville’s Central Division rival after missing the first two meetings due to injury. Nashville’s netminder has played strongly the past couple weeks since a hip injury forced him to miss the previous 51 games. The Blackhawks have scored five goals in two games against the Predators so far this season–but if Rinne’s glove hand is flashing early–Nashville may be able to claim an early lead.
- Blackhawks pushed back: The victory Nashville claimed over Chicago back in November was a 7-2 offensive explosion for the Predators. In that game, Nashville relentlessly attacked the Blackhawks and used a a full-team press in the offensive zone to focus most of the action in Chicago’s end. Hemmed in by the unexpected pressure from the Predators, the Blackhawks committed uncharacteristic mistakes and fell behind early. The longer the Hawks are allowed to settle in and find Nashville’s weakness the better they are off. The Predators should attempt to pinch their defensemen and use pressure that throws the home team off their desired game plan.
- Depth advantage for Chicago: Matchups against stacked lineups like the kind the Blackhawks possess are even tougher now that Nashville is without two-way center David Legwand. Chicago has an incredibly deep lineup that features a scoring threat on all four lines and Nashville’s top players can’t cover them all. The Predators will likely have to pick their poison especially with the top two lines. If defensemen Shea Weber and Roman Josi are used to try and limit Toews and Sharp, Kane may record another impressive performance against the club from Music City.
The puck drops at 7:00 p.m. (CST) tonight, the Predators will return to Nashville after the game in anticipation of their game tomorrow against the St. Louis Blues.