Nashville Predators (17-15-4-3) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (25-12-4-1)
When: 7:00 PM ET, Sunday, January 8, 2017
Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
Lines: Nashville +130 / Chicago -150
With just two wins in their last seven games, the Nashville Predators (4th in Central Division) will be heading to Chicago to round off their 3-game road trip against the Blackhawks (1st in Central), who haven’t been too consistent lately themselves…
The Preds are missing offensive bodies
After going 1-2-2 in the previous five games just before their current 3-contest road trip, the Nashville Predators (17-15-7) were really looking forward to some better results on their travels. They did record a comfortable 6-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, but lost Viktor Arvidsson (10 goals, 25 points for the year) to injury in the third period. So the game at the Florida Panthers just 24 hours later was poised to be a tough one, especially with Arvidsson, James Neal (14 goals, 20 points) and P.K. Subban (7 goals, 17 points) all queuing at the doctors’. Despite showing some great team spirit in Tampa, the Preds were atrocious offensively in Florida, mustering just one single goal in the 2-1 loss through Craig Smith, who got his 7th strike for his 14th point of the year.
Although definitely at fault for the freak match-winning goal the Cats scored in the third period, Nashville goalie Juuse Saros (3-3-1 for the year with a 1.29 GAA) saved the blushes for the Preds on many other occasions through the night, making a total of 32 stops. Pekka Rinne (14-10-6 with a 2.45 GAA) will be back in the net for the trip to Chicago, though, having gone 17-15-4 against the Hawks previously with a 2.50 career GAA. The Predators are currently 21st in the league with 41 points from 39 games and just two points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference with two outings in hand. They are scoring the 12th highest amount of goals per game (2.79), concede the 13th lowest amount defensively (2.62), rank 13th in power play with a 19.5% success rate and are 15th in penalty kill with 82.1% proficiency.
The Hawks thrive on Hossa’s return
The Chicago Blackhawks (25-12-5) were riding on a 5-game winning streak before Dec. 20 when right wing Marian Hossa (16 goals, 24 points for the year so far) went down injured in the contest against Ottawa. Since then the Hawks managed to win just one outing, going 1-4-1 in the process. Until Hossa’s return, that is. The 37-year-old Slovakian forward came back for Thursday’s clash against Buffalo, inspiring two back-to-back home wins for Chicago, who also defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 at United Center on Friday. Hossa provided an assist to Jonathan Toews, who scored his 7th goal of the year, extending his points’ total to 20. Artemi Panarin (16 goals, 40 points for the current campaign) netted during power play.
Scott Darling was excellent in the cage for the Hawks once again, making a season-high 39 saves. He is 11-4-2 for the current term with a 2.31 GAA. Corey Crawford (14-8-3 for the year with a 2.34 GAA) is expected to slide into the net against Nashville, though, having recorded a 13-9-1 career performance versus the Preds with a 2.52 GAA. The Blackhawks are currently 4th in the league with 55 points from 42 games and have a solid 15-4-4 home record. They are scoring the 15th highest amount of goals per game (2.69), concede the 7th lowest bulk defensively (2.40), are 14th in power play with an 18.6% success rate and rank 2nd from the bottom in penalty kill with a surprisingly dismal 75.4% competency.
- Predators are 1-4 in their last 5 vs. Western Conference.
- Predators are 1-6 in their last 7 when their opponent allows 2 goals or less in their previous game.
- Predators are 1-6 in their last 7 in the fourth game of a 4-in-6 situation.
- Predators are 1-7 in their last 8 Sunday games.
- Blackhawks are 6-1 in their last 7 games playing on 1 day’s rest.
- Blackhawks are 8-3 in their last 11 after scoring 2 goals or less in their previous game.
- Blackhawks are 11-5 in the last 16 meetings with Predators.
The Blackhawks were missing Marian Hossa badly, so are thrilled to have him back. The Preds, meanwhile, are without three offensive stalwarts, so their situation is even direr than that of Chicago at the very end of 2016. The Predators need to find attacking fluidity between them even with some crucial injuries. They failed at that in Florida and will definitely struggle in Chicago…