Nashville at Chicago
When: 8:00 PM
ET, Friday, March 14, 2014
Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
The Chicago Blackhawks are still among the league's elite teams but the reigning Stanley Cup champions have been trending in the wrong direction for the past 2 1/2 months. Chicago is in fifth place in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, but has a chance to move up in the standings with a favorable schedule upcoming - starting with Friday's home game against the Nashville Predators. The Blackhawks are only two points back of the No. 2 seed in the West and play six of their next seven at home.
Wednesday's 3-2 loss in Colorado dropped Chicago into third place in the Central Division and marked its 14th loss in 24 games (10-7-7) in 2014. "We don't want to think of ourselves as a team that just turns on the switch come playoff time," captain Jonathan Toews said. "Maybe we can learn our lesson now, that the games aren't going to get any easier." Nashville has won two straight following a four-game losing streak and is trying to stay in the playoff chase, trailing Dallas by four points for the second wild card.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN Tennessee (Nashville), CSN Chicago
ABOUT THE PREDATORS (28-28-10): Nashville had scored a combined three goals during its four-game skid but has put up four tallies in each of its last two victories to earn back-to-back wins for the first time since Jan. 28-30, In addition, it has posted consecutive victories away from home for the first time since Nov. 19-21. "It's a good start to the road trip so far," captain Shea Weber said. "We've got a challenge in Chicago coming up. They're a very good team and we've got to make sure we keep pushing forward and trying to get on a roll here." Weber ranks second among NHL defensemen with 16 goals.
ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (38-14-14): An inability to win close games continues to haunt Chicago, which has absorbed 11 one-goal defeats - seven in overtime or a shootout - since Jan. 2. One positive for the Blackhawks is that Patrick Kane has scored in back-to-back contests, including a highlight-reel tally against Colorado, to tie Patrick Sharp (29) for the team lead and move within one goal of matching his career high established in 2009-10. Corey Crawford, who sat out Wednesday after a string of 10 consecutive starts, is expected back in net against a Nashville squad that lit him up for five goals in mid-November.
1. Chicago's power play is in a 2-for-26 rut over the past eight games.
2. Predators G Pekka Rinne, who is 1-3-0 since returning from an injury absence of more than four months, has lost six straight to Chicago.
3. Sharp has a five-game point streak, although he has scored only one goal in 10 games.
PREDICTION: Blackhawks 4, Predators 2
Stats and Records