(WSCR) – The Blackhawks head to Nashville to take on the Predators and remember the playoff excitement from defeating them in the quarterfinals. If the Blackhawks win, this would be the Predators’ fifth straight loss at home.
By JEFF BARTL
The Blackhawks head there Saturday night for the first time since closing out their first-round series en route to the Stanley Cup, looking to hand the Predators a fifth consecutive home loss.
Chicago last played at Nashville in Game 6 of the Western Conference quarterfinals, winning 5-3 to advance. The Blackhawks went on to win their first Stanley Cup in 49 years.
This season, however, hasn’t started off as planned for the Blackhawks.
Coach Joel Quenneville shifted Patrick Kane from right to left wing and split the defensive tandem of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook in Wednesday’s 2-1 home loss to Phoenix. The changes had little effect, and Kane and Keith were benched for portions of the second period. Kane had only one shot and miscues by Keith led to both Coyotes goals.
“It just comes down to me needing to play better,” said Keith, who has a minus-7 rating in his last four games. “The past few games, probably more than that, I haven’t been my best and I know I need to be better.”
Chicago (8-9-1) has lost four of five, and leading scorer Patrick Sharp hasn’t netted a goal in six games. The Blackhawks didn’t suffer their ninth regulation loss last season until Dec. 22.
“We know it’s unacceptable,” defenseman Brian Campbell said. “We’ve got to be better, all around.”
Chicago, the third-highest scoring team in the NHL last season, has been held to two or fewer goals eight times. Marian Hossa, who recently missed five games with an undisclosed upper-body injury, hasn’t registered a point in the last six he’s played.
Marty Turco likely will be in net and is 3-0-1 with a 1.72 goals-against average in his last four starts against the Predators, though he didn’t play in the only matchup this season as Nashville won 3-2 in Chicago on Oct. 13.
The Predators also won the next night at home against St. Louis, but they have since lost all four of their games at Bridgestone Arena. It’s their longest home losing streak since dropping six straight Feb. 21-March 20, 2008.
Nashville (6-5-3) had lost five in a row overall before a 3-2 shootout win Thursday in St. Louis. Cal O’Reilly scored for his team-leading 12th point and J.P. Dumont added a goal.
“We hadn’t won in awhile, so you know you’re always wondering if you have much confidence,” coach Barry Trotz said. “I thought we did a really good job. (We’re) fortunate to win it in the shootout so will take the win. It’s never easy for us and it hasn’t been in this last little while.”
Pekka Rinne made 21 saves for his first victory in five starts since shutting out Dallas on Oct. 23.
“It was a huge win,” Rinne said. “We had a tough stretch with five losses in a row. We were really focusing on losing this skid. We played a strong game.”
Rinne held Chicago to four goals in the first three games of last season’s playoff series as Nashville took a 2-1 lead, but he gave up 12 in the next three.
Backup Anders Lindback made 23 saves last month in Chicago, where Nashville rallied to victory with two third-period goals – the last by Joel Ward on the power play with 26.7 seconds remaining.
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