Predators look to stay perfect vs. Blackhawks this season

NHL Hockey

Considering the success Nashville has enjoyed against the Chicago Blackhawks this season, the Predators seem to be in good position to bounce back from their first loss in nearly two weeks.

The Predators aim for a fifth victory in as many tries this season against the visiting Blackhawks on Saturday.

A run of eight wins in nine games helped propel Nashville back into the playoff race. The Predators had won a season-high six straight before Thursday’s 4-1 home loss to Dallas. That result, coupled with Chicago’s 4-3 home defeat to Carolina on Thursday, left these division foes tied with 39 points for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central — with Nashville holding the tiebreaker — heading into this key matchup.

The Predators took both meetings at Chicago last week, and three of their four victories in the season series have been decided by one goal.

“We weren’t at the level that we needed to be at (Thursday) to be able to have success,” Predators coach John Hynes said following Nashville’s first loss since March 20.

“There’s a big game coming on Saturday. … Make sure that we’re mentally and physically ready to play the way that we need to against Chicago on Saturday.”

Nashville’s Juuse Saros saw his four-game winning streak end with a 27-save effort Thursday. He’s stopped 58 of 60 shots in winning both 2020-21 starts against Chicago. Pekka Rinne won his third consecutive start while making 27 saves in a 3-2 win at Chicago on Sunday — his second victory over the Blackhawks this season.

Chicago, which has lost nine of the last 13, will look to snap a four-game road losing streak on Saturday. The Blackhawks were headed to at least earning a point Thursday against the Hurricanes before giving up the tiebreaking goal with 28.9 seconds left in regulation.

“Tough way to lose, no doubt,” Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton said. “It’s going to hurt. … Then we’ve got to find a way to turn the page and start building to Saturday.”

It’s also imperative the Blackhawks be prepared from the get-go Saturday. They were outshot 13-3 by Carolina in the first period, and outscored 3-0 by Nashville in the first period of the two meetings last week.

“We’ve just got to be ready, come to play,” Chicago forward Brandon Hagel said.

“We’ve just got to come right from the puck drop. We’ve got to just be ready to go. I think that’s our biggest problem.”

Blackhawks star Patrick Kane (49 points in 2020-21) had his five-game point streak end Thursday. He has just two assists in the four games with Nashville this season. Teammate Alex DeBrincat (36 points) scored twice against the Predators on March 28.

Chicago’s Kevin Lankinen is 0-1-1 with a 1.96 goals-against average versus Nashville this season. Teammate Malcolm Subban, who has lost three straight starts, has a 2.99 GAA while also going 0-1-1 against the Predators in 2020-21.

Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson had a goal and two assists against the Blackhawks last week. Defenseman Roman Josi has scored twice versus Chicago this season.

–Field Level Media

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