The Predators have been red hot, though they lost on Thursday night. And after a dramatic playoff series, plus all those regular season games against the Predators, everyone knows their style is different than most. It's almost never wide open.
"They play that way against everybody," Jonathan Toews said. "That's the thing. We know what they're going to try and do against us. We know what it's going to take from our standpoint to come up with two points. We just have to get prepared to do that."
Disciplined hockey is one key. Turning pucks over at their own blue line won't cut it against the Predators. One thing that seems less of an issue is the Hawks penalty killing. The opposition is 0-5 over the last two games, both easy wins for the Hawks.
"It just got to a point where enough is enough and we had to sit and have a real long meeting and really just kind of take care of it," Jake Dowell said.
Dowell is one of six forwards normally assigned to killing penalties. Before the last two games, the Hawks had fallen to 29th in the league. Right now, they rank 27th. So what's made the difference?
"Knowing when to pressure and not to pressure," Dowell said. "In general, we just need to not be running around. We were creating more chaos for ourselves than we needed to. We were getting ourselves out of position opening up lane for passes and shots."
They were wide open lanes at that. And they were putting the Hawks' goalies in a bad spot.
"Passing lanes through the middle which leads to one–time shooting lanes," Dowell said. "It's so far for the goalie to travel from one side to the other. We were giving that up too much."
Dowell and his teammates know two games is a small sample size to declare the penalty killing is fixed. He says "we'll know in time" if they've addressed it properly.
But it's a start, and as the Hawks head into a crucial home and home series with the Predators maybe it's one less concern for an improving Hawks team.
Nick Boynton returned to practice after missing several days due to the flu.
Niklas Hjalamrsson was held off the ice on Friday but will play against the Predators this weekend.