The sun is shining once again in Chicago and, gasp, it’s actually warm outside. We’ll enjoy it while it lasts.
Speaking of heat, the Chicago Blackhawks are feeling it in the Western Conference — see what we did there? Entering tonight’s game vs. the Nashville Predators, the Blackhawks are in fifth place, seven points behind the first-place St. Louis Blues. Can the Blackhawks catch their division foe? It’s not impossible. The Blackhawks have gone on winning runs before and could use one again now.
Will the Blackhawks go on a sufficient win streak to end the regular season? Will they catch the Blues eventually? Will this lousy, stinking winter ever end? Who knows, but we do know we have Five Things for you to watch for in tonight’s Predators-Blackhawks game.
1. Don’t fall into the trap. We all know how Nashville plays with that trap, slow-down game. The Blackhawks will have to set their tempo from the start to avoid that. Now the team’s starts have been up and down lately. They didn’t get the desired start against Colorado, and couldn’t claw their way back from an early deficit. A better start could lead to a better result, and that’s what the Blackhawks need right now.
2. Keep Kane going. A great game in front of the hometown fans in Buffalo, then a goal vs. Colorado that has probably gotten its share of YouTube hits: Patrick Kane is looking more like himself lately. Kane said this morning that returning to Buffalo did provide a bit of a spark, and it’s not a bad thing if the Blackhawks’ right wing starts surging at this point of the season. We’ll see if it continues tonight.
3. Stay out of the box. Although it’s struggled lately, much like the team overall, the Predators’ power play is pretty good (ninth overall in the NHL). The Blackhawks’ penalty kill has greatly improved from its bad start this season but there’s no need to test it too often tonight.
4. Keep their goaltender busy. Pekka Rinne is expected to start for Nashville tonight, and it will be just his fifth appearance after missing most of this season with a hip infection. The Blackhawks want to get to every goaltender as quickly as possible, but especially one who may still be trying to get his timing back this season.
5. Oh, our pick to click tonight, who will it be? We’re going with Brandon Saad, because he’s been damn good all season and we think he’ll be damn good again tonight.