The gap between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues grew a little on Sunday afternoon, as the Blues’ victory over Pittsburgh gave them a six-point cushion as the Blackhawks prepped for the Nashville Predators.
But the Blackhawks can’t concern themselves with what St. Louis does. They’ve won two in a row and would certainly like to build on that tonight. They’ll get one body back, anyway, as Brandon Saad (upper body) returns after missing the past three games. They’ll still be without Bryan Bickell (upper body) and Michal Rozsival (lower body). Corey Crawford gets the start for Chicago while Pekka Rinne gets it for Nashville.
No, folks, Teuvo Teravainen watch will have to wait for another game. He’s not playing tonight, although coach Joel Quenneville said there’s “a good chance” Teravainen plays Tuesday against the Dallas Stars.
So while fans count the days until Teravainen’s debut like those folks who wait in line at Dark Lord Day, we’ll focus on this game and look at the Five Things to watch for in tonight’s Predators-Blackhawks contest.
1. Remember the last game vs. the Preds, and for God’s sake, don’t repeat it. Quenneville usually stays pretty PC when commenting on game performances, but he didn’t hold back after the Blackhawks lost to Nashville, 3-2, on March 14. It was an awful outing, and he let everyone know it. The Blackhawks were probably reminded of that game heading into this one. Rinse, and for the love of all things holy, don’t repeat.
2. Don’t fall off after a solid start. This was kind of, sort of the problem for the Blackhawks last time. Well, actually their start was so-so. When they do start well, as they did their previous two games, the results are much better. The Blackhawks have to avoid that snooze-inducing trap game that the Predators play. They’d be smart to implement their speed from the starting puck drop.
3. Take it to the Preds in the second period. Nashville has decent second periods, where they’ve scored 58 goals this season. But that’s nothing compared to the Blackhawks, who have 91 second-period tallies. Get off to a good start in the first, then step on the gas in the following 20 minutes.
4. Welcome back, Brandon Saad. The Blackhawks miss anyone out of their lineup and they definitely miss the 200-foot game Saad provides. Not sure which line he’s on tonight — we’ll see that in pregame warmups — but he’ll be an asset regardless. Saad’s willing to go into the corners and win those puck battles, and that’ll be key against the grinding Predators.
5. Our pick to click tonight is (drumroll, please): oh, let’s go with Brent Seabrook. We just feel like picking him.