Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks vs. Preds

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks vs. Preds
December 17, 2013, 2:30 pm
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After recording a 3-1 win over the Kings on Sunday, the Blackhawks have hit the road and will face off against the Predators tonight. Catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet beginning at 6:30 with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It’s a lovely day in Nashville, where it’s more like spring than winter.

Spring is synonymous with rebirth, fresh beginnings. It’s something the Chicago Blackhawks would probably like to see manifest itself in tonight’s game against the Predators, who were not very kind to them on their last visit.

[MORE: Blackhawks: Bickell returns to lineup, Raanta in goal]

But enough about symbolism and a season that the city of Chicago won’t see until, oh, let’s go with May. While you all bundle up in the Windy City, we’ll look at the Five Things to watch for in tonight’s Predators-Blackhawks game in the Music City.

1. Remember the last game here, and don’t repeat it. Yep, we’re lobbing you a softball here for the top thing to watch but there’s no doubt that Nov. 16 debacle is in the Blackhawks’ minds coming into tonight. It was Nikolai Khabibulin’s last game – or partial game – before leaving with the lower-body injury that still sidelines him. But it went beyond him having a rough night. No one in a Blackhawks uniform played well that night, and they’ll use it to fuel their fire for tonight. “We’ll talk about it,” coach Joel Quenneville said of that game. “(The Predators are) playing well. They’re coming off some solid games. We have to be willing to play a hard road game."

2. Bring the hurt, Mr. Bickell. Bryan Bickell said he was “really, really ready” to return after missing the last month with his injury. Now he has to show how really, really ready he is. It’s not about him playing a plethora of minutes; it’s about him making an impact, mainly a physical one, in whatever minutes he does play. Bickell will be back in his familiar third-line spot. We’ll see if Bickell has his legs right out of the game. If he does, combined with his excitement, he could be a big, bruising factor.

3. Go into the final 20 minutes on top. The Blackhawks have a great winning percentage when they lead after two periods. But this isn’t about them. This is about the Predators, who are 0-13-0 this season when trailing after the first 40 minutes. If the Blackhawks can get that two-period lead, put doubt in the Predators’ minds, they’ll be in good shape.

4. Exploit the Predators’ penalty kill. In their last three games, all victories, the Predators have killed all seven power plays they’ve faced. It’s just a small sample of how well Nashville’s done shorthanded this season (it’s ranked eighth in the league). But the Blackhawks have scored at least one power-play goal in each of their last nine games. We’re thinking they make that 10 tonight.

5. It’s pick-to-click time. Even though he’ll be moving to the right side tonight, we think Brandon Saad’s going to have a nice game.