Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Hawks return to scene of rout by Preds
By Eric Single Special to ESPNChicago.com
NASHVILLE -- Things could not have gone much worse the last time the Chicago Blackhawks visited Nashville. After goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin surrendered two goals on eight shots and left with a lower-body injury, the Predators poured it on against Corey Crawford and cruised to a 7-2 rout on Nov. 16, snapping Chicago's run of 16 games with only one regulation loss.
The Predators look to extend their current three-game winning streak and continue the slow climb back into contention in the Western Conference on Tuesday, and after last month's blowout, the Blackhawks know what to expect from a Nashville team hitting on all cylinders.
"I was playing the last game we were here -- they beat us pretty bad," Bryan Bickell said. "The last few games, they've been playing good hockey. For us, I think they play a good box system and keep everybody outside, and I think we need to attack the seams and get our second opportunities."
Whatever extra motivation the team may need for a road test against a divisional foe won't be hard to muster given the lopsided numbers that remained on the scoreboard the last time the Blackhawks left Bridgestone Arena.
"We'll talk about it, but they're playing well," Quenneville said. "Real solid games, they play the right way. They play hard, and you have to be willing to play a hard, simple game."
Goalie depth tested: As Antti Raanta prepared to make his seventh consecutive start in net for the Blackhawks in the wake of injuries to Nikolai Khabibulin and starter Corey Crawford, a former goaltender within the Chicago organization was being recognized for his standout play in Nashville. Predators netminder Carter Hutton was named the NHL's third star on Monday after going 3-0-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average last week.
The Blackhawks expect Crawford to rejoin the team on the ice in the coming days, while Khabibulin's injury appears to be more long-term. After spending the past two seasons in Rockford with Crawford and Ray Emery blocking his path to the NHL, Hutton indicated he hasn't thought much about the Blackhawks' current health concerns in net and the opportunities they could have presented him in years past.
"I can't complain," Hutton said. "I'm in the NHL right now, too. I was there for a few years, and they didn't really have the injuries. Crawford was pretty solid all the time, and (Emery) went down a couple of times, but nothing too serious. You can't really worry about that."
Kane feeling it:Patrick Kane is riding an offensive tear into Tuesday night's matchup, having tallied points in nine consecutive games and 21 of his last 22. His 16 career goals against the Predators are the winger's highest total against any opponent.
"You have to shut him down," Nashville defenseman Shea Weber said. "They've got a lot of guys that have a lot of offensive capability on that team, and he's one of those guys that kind of spearheads that and leads to that, so you have to have a full team effort and make sure everyone's working together to shut him down."