Chicago Blackhawks: Nashville Predators
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."
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks' 7-2 loss to the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night.
How it happened: Backup goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin put the Blackhawks in an early hole by giving up a soft rebound that Matt Cullen was able to tap in for the game’s first goal, and he had no chance on Nick Spaling’s filthy wrist shot from a tough angle less than a minute later. Corey Crawford entered after Khabibulin left with an injury and could not stop the bleeding, allowing five goals on 22 shots. On offense, the Blackhawks struggled to get shots through on Nashville goaltender Marek Mazanec until Patrick Kane’s wrister found daylight with 1 minute, 16 seconds to play in the second period. Brandon Pirri brought Chicago within two with his fifth goal of the season early in the third, but former Blackhawk Viktor Stalberg responded with his second goal as a Predator 15 seconds later, and Nashville added two more to hand the Blackhawks just their third regulation loss in 20 games this season.
What it means: The Blackhawks were hoping to come away from Khabibulin’s fourth start of the season with some confidence in their backup goaltending situation ahead of an upcoming seven-game road trip that will certainly put a strain on Crawford. Instead, they return home with serious questions about Khabibulin’s health and general effectiveness and a hole to fill in support of Crawford.
Player of the game: Nashville forward Craig Smith finished with a pair of primary assists and the Predators’ fourth goal of the night, a nifty backhand in close over a helpless Crawford after the Blackhawks had coughed up the puck in their own zone.
Stat of the game: Crawford appeared in his 10th consecutive game, playing nearly 45 minutes in place of Khabibulin, and allowed at least four goals for the third straight game. He was also forced into action on his last night off after Khabibulin surrendered four goals in a 6-5 win on Oct. 29.
What’s next: The Blackhawks head home to face the San Jose Sharks on Sunday for the second game of the back-to-back, the team’s last game at the United Center in the month of November. The Predators, fresh off a lengthy trip of their own, are off until Tuesday, when they head back out on the road to take on the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
Stalberg, who spent three seasons in Chicago but saw his ice time dwindle as the team closed in on its second Stanley Cup in four years, signed a four-year, $12 million deal with the Predators in the offseason but he missed the first four games of the season with a shoulder injury and has struggled to mesh with the offense since returning to action, tallying only two points in 13 games so far.
“Coming off the (Stanley Cup) win and the short summer and all that, you sort of thought it was going to be easier, maybe,” Stalberg said. “But obviously, I got kind of a rude awakening there, and getting hurt didn’t really help either because you wanted those exhibition games to get those legs from the short summer out of you, and I really didn’t have a chance to do that.”
Nashville head coach Barry Trotz pointed to the organizations’ contrasting styles as a potential reason for Stalberg’s adjustment period.
“We don’t play like the Chicago Blackhawks,” Trotz said. “We don’t have the personnel up front to play like they do, so a lot of things that we have to do to be successful, they don’t do in Chicago just because of the way they play. But he’s played better. Probably on the road trip, he’s been one of our more effective forwards.”
“I think he was a good player when he was here,” Chicago right wing Patrick Kane said of Stalberg. “He contributed a lot to the Blackhawks organization and to our team, and it’s always sad to see guys like that go, but sometimes change is good and it’s time to move on, and I wish him all the best.”
ESPNChicago.com's Blackhawks reporter Scott Powers will count down this season's top 50 storylines over the next week leading into training camp.
Here's the first installment:
50. Bollig, the enforcer
The Blackhawks will likely be auditioning for five roster spots during training camp. One of those positions will likely go to Brandon Bollig. Some may argue enforcers aren't really needed on a team, but Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has often liked to have someone who isn't afraid to drop his gloves and step up for his teammates. With Jamal Mayers and Daniel Carcillo gone, there aren't many of those type of players remaining on the roster. Bollig led the Blackhawks with five fights last season. He will be looking for his first career point this season. He has zero points in 43 career NHL games.
49. Sellout and attendance streak
The Blackhawks are aiming to lead the NHL in attendance for the sixth consecutive season. They have sold out the United Center for 187 consecutive regular-season games dating back to the 2008-09 season. They averaged a paid attendance of 21,775 during their 24 home games last season.
Read the entire story.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks had gone so long without scoring a power-play goal their coach couldn’t even remember when the last one occurred.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville can be forgiven for his inability to recall it. Their last power-play goal didn’t even happen in the month of April. He would have had to gone back to March 29 against the Anaheim Ducks to locate it.
But after a nine-game drought and 0-for-19 scoreless streak, the Blackhawks finally broke out of their slump by scoring a power-play goal on their first opportunity Friday and later added another power-play goal for the game-winner to defeat the Nashville Predators 5-4 at the United Center.
“It was good,” Quenneville said. “The power play did some good things. Obviously the finished product is what we’re looking for. Our 4-on-3 [overtime power play] looked good as well. It was a long time coming. We were talking about it when we scored after the first period, ‘When was the last time we scored on the PP?’ It seemed like a long, long time ago. It was nice to see to get that off our back.”
Emery and Rozsival skated at the United Center prior to the team's morning skate on Friday, according to Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. Sharp participated in the team's morning skate.
Quenneville said Emery is also questionable for Saturday's game against the Phoenix Coyotes. Quenneville said Emery is feeling better, but he could receive extra time to rest.
Quenneville said Rozsival is day-to-day.
Sharp, who will miss his third consecutive game, said he is getting closer to playing and plans to travel with the team for its games against Vancouver Canucks on Monday and Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.
"Just another hard skate out there," Sharp after Friday's morning skate. "Luckily Drew LeBlanc is up here with me. We can practice pretty hard. A couple guys are out there as well. Just another day trying to improve and inch back into the lineup.
"As a player and a hockey player, you want to play and be healthy and ready to go. I'm not sitting out because I'm resting for anything. I'm not playing because I can't. As soon as I'm ready to play, I'll get back in there."
Sharp, who has five goals and 13 assists in 26 games this season, has missed the team's past two games with an upper-body injury. He also recently sat out 14 games due to an upper-body injury. He had been back for two games before his latest injury.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said they will be re-evaluated Wednesday and could play Thursday against the St. Louis Blues. Both players participated in Monday's morning skate at the United Center.
With three more wins and six more points since last week's rankings, the Blackhawks (15-0-3) are now 11 points ahead of the St. Louis Blues, who have 22 points, for the lead in the Central Division. The Blackhawks also lead the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators by 12 points and the Columbus Blue Jackets by 21 points.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks' penalty kill is going so well Niklas Hjalmarsson felt comfortable enough to go for style points at a most critical time.
With the Hawks down a man after Andrew Shaw got called for charging with a little over five minutes left in the game, Hjalmarsson got the puck on the boards to the left of his goal and fired a clearing pass between his legs.
The puck went deep into Columbus territory and about a minute later, the Blackhawks killed another penalty.
Hey, whatever works. Hjalmarsson also blocked six shots with his body, but with that pass, he showed he's more than a target.
"It was a little too much, maybe," Hjalmarsson said after the 1-0 victory over the Blue Jackets on Sunday night. "But I got the puck out. Probably half of the guys in the crowd got pretty scared there."
That play was pretty indicative of how things are going for Chicago right now. A dash of style and a lot of substance are going a long way. With the victory, the Hawks extended their NHL record to 18 straight games with a point, or to put it another way, without a regulation loss, to start a season.
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Aside from the Blackhawks staying on top of the Western Conference's Central Division, there has been some movement in the division in the past week.
The St. Louis Blues have gone from hanging right with the Blackhawks with a 6-1-0 record to dropping their past four games, one coming in a shootout. The Blues are now 6-4-1 and are in fourth place in the division with 13 points.
As the Blues have faded, the Detroit Red Wings have gained some momentum. The Red Wings have bounced back from a two-game losing streak to win their past three games and have allowed four goals in the past three games. They have improved to 7-4-1 and rest in second place in the division with 15 points.
The Nashville Predators sit between the Blues and Red Wings with 14 points. The Predators have lost their past two games after winning their previous four games. They scored just once in losses to the Minnesota Wild and Blackhawks.
If the season ended today, the Central Division would fill four playoffs spots with the Blackhawks leading the Western Conference, Detroit in fifth, Nashville in sixth and St. Louis in seventh.
DETROIT -- If there was any doubt the Chicago Blackhawks did indeed want to earn the No. 5 seed and a date with the Nashville Predators in the opening round of the playoffs, Joel Quenneville erased it by pulling Corey Crawford in the closing seconds of regulation in the Hawks eventual 3-2 shootout victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.
The game was tied 2-2 at the time, after the Hawks blew a 2-0 third-period lead by allowing Pavel Datsyuk to score with 47 seconds remaining and tie the game.
“Like we said going into the game, there are no bargains out there,” Joel Quenneville said afterwards. “All four teams we were eligible to play we had losing records against them this year but at the same time wherever the chips fell, wherever we end up, is always a chance. We said going into the game if we have to pull the goalie, we’ll pull the goalie.”
It sounds like more than anything the Hawks wanted to respect the game -- and the hockey gods -- in figuring out their playoff fate.
“It shows you that we want to win the game,” Patrick Sharp said of pulling the goalie. “You get into trouble if you start picking who you want to play in the playoffs. I’ve said it all along, you look at the eight teams in the West, it’s not going to be an easy series for anyone.”
So whether it was Nashville or now Los Angeles, Phoenix or San Jose, the Hawks weren’t thinking about their future foe as much as they were thinking about themselves.
“I thought we had an excellent finish to our season and have some momentum going into the playoffs,” Quenneville said. “No matter who we play it’ll be a challenge.”
The Hawks might lament giving up the lead, but they took the season series over the Wings four games to two, earning points in all six contests. That’s impressive. And all six games were one-goal affairs.
“It’s nothing special,” Duncan Keith said. “They’re a good team but right now we’re focused on the playoffs.”
And who they might play. That comes later on Saturday. At least the Hawks can say they played the game the right way right to the end.
“Last game of the season there was a lot on the line for seeding but I thought for the most part we played a good game and we were able to come out with a win anyway,” Sharp said. “So that’s good.”
Kane’s shootout move
After Pavel Datsyuk failed to score with a between the legs move, Patrick Kane tried the same, but finished on it.
“I just thought of the move real quick, put it through my legs and bring it back,” Kane said. “Luckily it worked out ... I know they were fighting for home ice but it didn’t really mean anything to our team so I figured why not try to do something.”
Unlike Thursday in Minnesota Kane didn’t need to lift the puck. He went through the legs of goaltender Jimmy Howard and scored the lone goal in the shootout.
“I just thought of it real quick to get the fans out of their seats and score too,” Kane said. “Glad it worked.”
• Jimmy Hayes lost two teeth after getting high-sticked in the first period by Riley Sheahan.
“Then I got an elbow in the game later that split my lip open,” Hayes said.
• Marian Hossa won the team scoring title with 77 points, leading the Hawks with 48 assists. Patrick Sharp led the Hawks in goals with 33 and also had the best plus/minus on the team with a plus-28 rating.
• Sharp had two prime assists for the Hawks including a nifty pass out front to Andrew Shaw for the Hawks second goal.
• Viktor Stalberg added to his career high with his 22nd goal on a rebound of a Sharp shot. All 43 of his points this season came even strength, the most in the league.
• During the first period the Hawks announced goalie Ray Emery had signed a one year contract extension. He’ll make $1.15 million next year, according to a league source.
“I guess we were going on the road anyway so it probably doesn’t matter much to us,” -- Kane, on not winning the game in regulation and earning a higher seed.
Despite losing the game, the Red Wings will be the No. 5 seed, finishing the season with 102 points to the Blackhawks' 101. The Hawks were 47 seconds away from a regulation win -- and one more point in the standings -- which would have earned them the No. 5 seed by virtue of a tiebreaker. Instead, the Red Wings will play the No. 4 seed Nashville Predators in the opening round.
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Here are the playoff scenarios facing the Chicago Blackhawks as they take on the Detroit Red Wings Saturday afternoon. Keep in mind the first tie-breaker is total non-shootout wins by each club and the second tie-breaker is total points earned in the head-to-head series between the two teams.
If the Hawks beat the Wings in regulation:
The Hawks will earn the No. 5 seed by virtue of the second tie-breaker. Both Chicago and Detroit will have 101 points and 39 non-shootout victories but the Hawks will have more points in the head-to-head season series so they would earn the No. 5 seed and would play Nashville in the opening round of the playoffs. That series would begin in Nashville on either Wednesday or Thursday.
If the Hawks beat the Wings in overtime or a shootout OR lose to Detroit:
Chicago will be the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference and play the winner of the Pacific Division to be determined later on Saturday.