Nashville Predators Preview: Tougher Test Awaits In Chicago

Jan 9, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne (35) celebrates after scoring a empty net goal against the Chicago Blackhawks with his teammates during the third period at United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne (35) celebrates after scoring a empty net goal against the Chicago Blackhawks with his teammates during the third period at United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

On the heels of a historic, four-goal night for Rocco Grimaldi against the Red Wings, the Nashville Predators head to the Windy City to take on the Chicago Blackhawks in back-to-back games starting on Saturday.

The Predators have not faced the Blackhawks since the season began, sweeping them in their first set of back-to-back games in January. Although the Predators got the two victories, both games took extra time to secure the wins.

More from Predlines

A lot has happened for both teams during this crazy and shortened season. Both have ridden the wave of highs and lows that have been associated with this season.

As the season is now past the halfway point, every game takes on new meaning, and every point won or lost can mean the difference between making the playoffs or starting Summer vacation early.

The Blackhawks’ Spot To Lose

Chicago started the season in the basement of the standings with the Detroit Red Wings, winning only two games in January.

The Blackhawks then went 11 and 13 in February and March, climbing their way up in the Central Division and claiming the coveted fourth playoff spot.

You can bet that the Predators will be facing a hostile Blackhawks team on Saturday, bent on keeping that fourth spot to themselves. With only seven points separating the fourth and seventh spot in the standings, the Blackhawks will need to watch their backs as three teams are coming for them and fast.

The Blackhawks have some momentum coming off of two wins against the Florida Panthers, the last being a shutout. They will look to try to capitalize on any mistakes that the Predators may make.

With goaltender Kevin Lankinen having played the past two games, we may see the appearance of Malcolm Subban unless head coach Jeremy Colliton decides to go with the hot hand of Lankinen. The rookie Lankinen has a GAA of 2.71 and a .920 SV% on the season.

As always, the Predators will have to keep an eye on the future Hall of Famer Patrick Kane. Kane leads the Blackhawks with 46 points (13 goals, 33 assists) and is averaging a point a game in his last five outings.

7 PM CDT. Fox Sports TN. Saturday, March 27. 16-13-5. . 16-17-1. 151. 94

The Nashville Predators’ Spot To Take

Two weeks ago, most people, myself included, had written off Nashville and their hopes of ever making the playoffs this season. The Predators are proving everyone wrong.

The Predators are bolstered by excellent goaltending from Juuse Saros and Pekka Rinne. Saros has been a man possessed, only allowing three goals and stopping 141 shots in his last four games.

Head Coach John Hynes has also been doing something that he hasn’t done much this season, keeping the lines together.

This may be a contributing factor to their recent success. The players can finally build some chemistry, which has been lacking for most of the season. The results speak for themselves.

Speaking of chemistry, it has been quite a rush watching Eeli Tolvanen become more comfortable with his teammates and playing on an NHL level.

Tolvanen, who has only participated in 25 games this season, is fourth on the roster with 14 points (8 goals, 14 assists). His progression is fun to watch, and his play on the ice has fans excited about his future in Nashville.

Must Read. Nashville Predators: Being Light Sellers Has Become an Option. light

The good news is the Predators are back in the playoff hunt and sit only four points out of the fourth-place spot in the standings. They are playing their best hockey of the season and are finally playing with consistency, which is needed at this point in the season.

One question that remains for Hynes is what to do when the rest of his players are healthy and ready to be inserted into the lineup. Does Hynes remix the lines, insert the returning players, and jeopardize the proven success they have right now? He will have some very tough lineup decisions to make soon.

Another lingering question is what GM David Poile will do with the roster as the trade deadline approaches? Two weeks ago, it appeared that a big sell-off of players was on the horizon. With their recent success, a soft sell-off could be in the works, or Poile could choose to do nothing at all.

While it is great to see the Predators finally find success this season, it would be a big mistake to put the rebuild on hold in hopes of making a run at the Stanley Cup.

To some degree, changes need to be made at the trade deadline. It would be unfortunate if management made no changes and the Predators get bounced out of the playoffs in the first round.

Standing pat at the deadline resulting in an early playoff exit will set the Predators back even further and could result in the loss of some players to free agency with no assets in return. They have to look to the future and start rebuilding now, even if it jeopardizes a cup run.