NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Carter Hutton was surprised to get the text message from Chicago Blackhawks center Brandon Pirri about potential dinner plans on Friday night, considering the Nashville Predators goaltender wasn’t exactly home.
“He didn’t realize we were in Pittsburgh,” said Hutton, whose Predators played there on Friday. “He doesn’t pay too much attention to the schedule.”
All mixed signals and unread schedules aside, it’s another reunion-tinged contest for the Blackhawks, who will see former teammates Hutton and Viktor Stalberg when the play the Predators here tonight. The former and current Blackhawks will exchange their pleasantries prior to the game, if they haven’t already.
Stalberg said he was able to see a few guys at this morning’s skates.
“I just walked by the room and talked to a few of them,” said Stalberg, who added he’s ready to play his former team. “I'm sure there'll be a little more excitement than maybe any other game, the first time you face your old team is a little special. The first time you're back in Chicago will be special, too. I'm probably going to be a little more nervous than a regular game, but at the same time it'll be fun going out there and hopefully do everything we can here and I can to stop their streak here.”
Stalberg and Hutton likely entered their time in Nashville with preconceived ideas. As we wrote yesterday, what they expected and what happened were two different things. Predators coach talked about that today, regarding Stalberg’s start and progress.
“We don’t play like the Chicago Blackhawks. We don’t have the personnel up front to play like they do. So with Viktor, a lot of things we have to do to be successful, they don’t do in Chicago,” Trotz said. “But he’s played better, yes. On the road trip he’s been one of our more effective forwards.”
Meanwhile, Hutton is likely starting tonight against the guy who the Blackhawks went out and acquired after not re-signing Hutton: Nikolai Khabibulin. Hutton would’ve loved the chance to play for the Blackhawks, but is relishing his unexpected starting opportunity with the Predators.
“You believe in yourself and you put a lot of work in. I played a lot of games in Rockford and a lot of time and had a chance to play, but I guess they had other feelings for me. They went with Khabibulin, an older guy,” he said. “That’s the way it works, right? It’s hockey. That’s the business side of it, you can’t really control. I can only control my game and what I can bring to the table. So being able to come here and have a chance to be in the NHL is important to me.”
The Predators have struggled, losing their last four games. But Trotz isn’t heaping all the blame on the goaltending, be it Hutton or Marek Mazanec.
“Both have done reasonably well. (Neither is) Pekka Rinne, at the same time,” Trotz said. “But they’ve come in a tough situation and played pretty well for us. They’ve given us a chance to win. But we’re not playing well enough in front of them to give them a chance to win. It’s no excuse, but right now, we have to get our game solidified so we can start being in games.”
For the Blackhawks, it’s one more game where they’re facing ex-teammates.
“We’ve done that a few times now,” Patrick Sharp said. “We’re friends off the ice but as soon as we start it’s business as usual.”
It’ll be that way for everyone tonight. The friendships remain between all players, but, come game time, hockey comes first.
“I have a lot of close friends, a lot of guys I spent a lot of time with (in Chicago),” Hutton said. “At the same time, it’s the Chicago Blackhawks, a pretty unbelievable team and a challenge we’re looking forward to.”