Blackhawks look for third straight win when they face Predators

Blackhawks look for third straight win when they face Predators

Corey Crawford is back in net and the Blackhawks will look to win their third in a row when they host the Nashville Predators on Sunday night.

The Blackhawks won back-to-back games against Buffalo and Carolina on Thursday and Friday. They beat the Predators on Dec. 29 in Nashville. And while the Predators will be missing some key players, including P.K. Subban and James Neal, the Blackhawks can’t take them lightly.

“Try to keep playing the same way,” Patrick Kane said. “I think we played better against Buffalo and Carolina, but try to get back to that puck-possession type of game, hanging on to the puck, keep it in their end a little bit more and hopefully control the game tonight. Try to keep getting some points here and keep rising in the division.”

The Blackhawks are currently atop the Western Conference with 55 points. Minnesota is two points behind them. Outside of Crawford, the Blackhawks should have the same lineup as on Friday.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

BLACKHAWKS VS. NASHVILLE PREDATORS

6 p.m.

TV: WGN

Radio: WGN 720 AM

Chicago Blackhawks

Forward lines

Vinnie Hinostroza-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa

Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Richard Panik

Andrew Desjardins-Dennis Rasmussen-Jordin Tootoo

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson

Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook

Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

INJURIES/ILLNESS: Marcus Kruger (right arm).

Nashville Predators (via The Tennessean)

Forward lines

Filip Forsberg-Ryan Johansen-Calle Jarnkrok

Austin Watson-Mike Fisher-Colton Sissons

Kevin Fiala-Mike Ribeiro-Craig Smith

Harry Zolnierczyk-Vladislav Kamenev-Frederick Gaudreau

Defensive Pairs

Roman Josi-Ryan Ellis

Mattias Ekholm-Matt Irwin

Pontus Aberg-Yannick Weber

Goaltender

Pekka Rinne

INJURIES/ILLNESS: P.K. Subban (reported herniated disc), James Neal (upper body), Colin Wilson (undisclosed).

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks blank Bruins; Bulls fall in Atlanta

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USA TODAY

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Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Bruins

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Bruins

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins on Friday night:

1. A sluggish start.

The Blackhawks have gotten off to some solid starts lately, scoring the game's first goal in the opening frame in five of their last six contests heading into Friday. But they were lucky to get out of the first in a 0-0 tie this time.

They had 15 shot attempts (six on goal) through the first 20 minutes while the Bruins had 30 attempts (17 on goal). Fortunately for the Blackhawks, Scott Darling stopped all of them that came his way.

Boston's third line of Ryan Spooner, Riley Nash and David Backes dominated possession, leading all skaters with a plus-12 Corsi in the period.  

2. Scott Darling steals two points.

Joel Quenneville decided to go with Darling in an effort to give a slumping Corey Crawford a chance to reset, and the Lemont native an opportunity to play in front of his father away from home, where he's used to watching him shine. It's safe to say he made his papa proud by putting on a great show.

Darling turned aside all 30 shots he faced, including 17 in the first period, for his second shutout of the season and fourth of his career. He has now allowed two or fewer goals in eight of his last 12 starts. 

Asked after the game whether he will earn a second straight start Sunday when the Blackhawks host the Vancouver Canucks, Quenneville responded, "We'll see."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Special teams not a factor.

In a game that featured only one goal, you'd think the way to crack the scoresheet would be on the man advantage. That didn't happen.

The Blackhawks went 0-for-3 on the power play, while the Bruins failed to cash in on their only two opportunities. Boston entered the contest by going 7-for-17 on the power play in their previous five games, good for a 41.2 success rate.

It was a nice bounce-back game for the Blackhawks' penalty kill unit, which allowed a goal on the man advantage in their previous two games.

4. Third line steps up at crucial moment.

The Blackhawks' third line of Vinnie Hinostroza, Marian Hossa and Tanner Kero had the worst possession numbers among all skaters, each registering a 24 percent Corsi or below. But when their team needed them the most, they stepped up.

With 1:26 left in regulation, Hossa ended his 10-game goal drought by burying home a terrific feed from Kero to snap a 0-0 tie and give the Blackhawks their second consecutive win. It's Hossa's 17th goal of the campaign, which ties Artemi Panarin for second on the team, and his fifth game-winning goal of the year. His 83 career game-winning goals now ranks 24th in NHL history, surpassing Mike Bossy, and remains fifth among active players.

Hossa's goal also moved him within a tie of Pierre Turgeon for 37th on the all-time goals list with 516.

Kero has six points in his last six games, while Hinostroza has two goals and one assist in his past two.

5. Despite recent struggles, Bruins in good hands with Claude Julien.

It seems like this is a discussion every year, but firing Julien would be a huge mistake for a Bruins team that fell to 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. They're still the No. 1 possession team in the NHL, controlling 55.42 percent of the even-strength shot attempts, and give up the fifth-fewest high danger scoring chances with 326, according the naturalstattrick.com. They average the second-most shots on goal per game at 33.9, and allow the second-fewest at 26.5.

To back it up, their PDO is 97.5 percent, the sum of a team's even-strength save percentage and shooting percentage that usually works it way toward 100, which indicates they're due for a fairly large correction. They're not getting bounces right now, but they're playing the right way and a change behind the bench would be a step in the wrong direction, considering Julien is easily a top-five coach in the NHL.