Nashville Predators Enter Critical Matchup With Chicago Blackhawks

Matthew Highmore #36 of the Chicago Blackhawks and Ryan Ellis #4 of the Nashville Predatorsbattle for position next to Pekka Rinne #35 (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Matthew Highmore #36 of the Chicago Blackhawks and Ryan Ellis #4 of the Nashville Predatorsbattle for position next to Pekka Rinne #35 (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Every game means more this season with a 56-game schedule, and the Nashville Predators can’t let a three-game losing streak grow past this point.

The Predators are coming off a disastrous weekend in Dallas that was mainly due to their Friday night loss to the Stars that ended in a 7-0 final score. At least they showed some pushback on Sunday in a 3-2 loss.

Now the Predators get a young Chicago Blackhawks team decimated by injuries and expected to be right at the bottom of the Central Division with the Detroit Red Wings.

If the Predators drop even one of these two games against the Blackhawks, people are going to start including them as one of the bottom feeders of the division.

What sticks out in this matchup

The Nashville Predators really need to build off of what they accomplished in the third period against the Dallas Stars on Sunday. They tightened up defensively after spotting Dallas another power play goal and nearly tied up the score after emptying their net.

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It was too little, too late. However, the Blackhawks are not anywhere near on the same level as the Stars, and the Predators should have an easier time generating space on the ice.

With that said, the Predators have to avoid the penalty box at all costs. Penalties are sometimes unavoidable, but an attention to detail is badly needed.

Head Coach John Hynes echoed the sentiment of cleaning up that part of their game and playing more disciplined, per Brooks Bratten of the team’s official website:

"“Our special teams again, it’s the difference in the game, so that has to be a focus coming in.”"

Coincidently enough, the Blackhawks have connected on eight of their 19 power play opportunities on the young season. A small sample size, but still one to avoid if you’re the Predators.

The Predators were one of the worst in the NHL last season at killing off penalties, and they’re heading down that same dark, lonely road again this season.

The Blackhawks don’t really draw a lot of power play opportunities, either. They’re ranked in the bottom half of the league in the category, so the Predators just have to be smart in this area. It has to be the main focal point when preparing for this matchup.

Players who stand out

For the Blackhawks, it’s always going to be centered around superstar Patrick Kane until the day he retires. He’s already off to his usual efficient start with seven points in six games.

However, the Blackhawks are loaded with youth and inexperience. And injuries are hindering them big time. They’re already missing their rising star in Kirby Dach, and now they have some COVID-19 concerns as well.

Both Alex DeBrincat and Adam Boqvist will miss due to COVID-19 concerns, per the Chicago Tribune. DeBrincat in particular is a huge loss for them in the lineup.

For other standout players they have available, watch out for Pius Suter who just put up a hat trick to score his first three goals of his NHL career. As bad as the Blackhawks are perceived to be, they have young talent to keep tabs on.

When it comes to the Predators, they have the veterans to outmatch Chicago in this matchup. But execution is key. Filip Forsberg looks like a man on a mission and has four goals in his first five games.

Forsberg added his fourth goal of the season via the power play against the Stars on Sunday. But the Predators power play still went a putrid 1-for-9 over the weekend.

Viktor Arvidsson is also playing outstanding right now coming into this matchup. He’s got one goal and four assists through five games. The top line hasn’t been the issue for Nashville. It’s been defensive lapses, much like last season.

The Predators should end up returning Matt Benning back to the bottom defensive pairing. Who the Predators go with at goaltender is uncertain with both Juuse Saros and Pekka Rinne.

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Saros has four of the five starts this season, with Rinne getting his lone start against the Carolina Hurricanes and surrendering three goals and making 23 saves.

We’ll update you here with lineups as they’re revealed. Happy Nashville Predators gameday everyone!