Preds Lead Blackhawks By One Point In The Central Division

(WSCR) – It seems as if the Blackhawks have figured everything out this season. The team is showing flashes of last year’s brilliance, and they’re going for their third straight victory.

As the season marches on, games will become more and more important. Especially those games withing the Blackhawks’ division.

The Nashville Predators lead the Blackhawks by one point for second place in the Central Division thanks to a pair of victories in the season series.

In order to maintain that advantage, Nashville will have to bounce back from its worst defeat of the season.

The Predators look to rebound from their first regulation loss in 11 games when they visit the Blackhawks on Wednesday night.

Nashville was 8-0-2 in its previous 10, tying a franchise record for points in consecutive games, before suffering its most lopsided loss of the season Saturday in a 6-1 home defeat to Los Angeles.

The Kings led 4-1 after the opening period, and Anders Lindback was lifted at 9:59 of the first in favor of fellow rookie Mark Dekanich. Lindback made his eighth consecutive start in place of the injured Pekka Rinne, while Dekanich allowed three goals on nine shots in his NHL debut.

Nashville (17-9-6) had a season-high five-game winning streak snapped.

“They came out hard and jumped early,” coach Barry Trotz said. “They won a few more battles early and took control of the game.”

Trotz is expected to get Rinne (lower-body injury) back for this game. He went 4-2-2 with a 1.44 goals-against average and two shutouts in his last eight starts before getting hurt.

Left wing Sergei Kostitsyn had his career-high point streak snapped at eight Saturday, but Steve Sullivan became the fourth player to score 100 goals with the Predators.

Sullivan had 118 goals while playing for Chicago from 1999-2004.

He scored in Nashville’s 3-2 win at the United Center on Oct. 13 and assisted on the tying goal at home Nov. 13 as the Predators won 4-3 in a shootout.

Chicago (18-14-3) has won 10 of 16 since that loss, taking the last two on its season-high five-game homestand. The Blackhawks beat Detroit 4-1 on Friday and posted a 3-2 victory over Los Angeles on Sunday.

Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Fernando Pisani scored against the Kings, while rookie Corey Crawford made 26 saves.

“Obviously, it’s the way we expect to play, the way we know we can play,” Toews said. “Going into every game, we’ve got to remind ourselves it’s much more enjoyable when you play the way we did tonight.”

Toews added an assist to give him six goals and seven assists in the last nine games for Chicago, which has been playing without injured star forwards Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa.

Kane missed his sixth game because of an injured left ankle while Hossa sat out his ninth with a lower-body injury.

Crawford started for the ninth time in 11 contests, and he’s 9-2-1 with a 2.21 GAA over his last 12 appearances.

“We had a good feeling after Detroit and were able to carry it,” Crawford said. “We played a solid game tonight, definitely kept them to the outside and cleared rebounds.”

Crawford lost to the Predators in October while Marty Turco was outplayed by Rinne in last month’s meeting.

Copyright 2010 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. STATS LLC and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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