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).

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Comfortable Kero: Quick hits from Blackhawks-Penguins

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USA TODAY

Comfortable Kero: Quick hits from Blackhawks-Penguins

PITTSBURGH – Well, that looked more familiar, didn’t it?

The Blackhawks put talk into action on Wednesday night, storming out to an early lead and never letting up in a 5-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. They’re sitting in a good spot right now, sporting a nine-point lead over the Minnesota Wild – yes the Wild still has that game in hand – and, with five games remaining, they once again played the complete game they’d been missing.

The schedule doesn’t let up, so let’s get to the notables.

What Worked: The Blackhawks’ first period. If there’s such thing as a statement 20 minutes, the Blackhawks made it in Pittsburgh. If the Penguins made a bad pass, the Blackhawks turned it into an opportunity and, a few times, a goal. The Blackhawks had a similarly sharp first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday. On Wednesday, however, they didn’t lose any steam later.

What Didn’t Work: The power play. Yeah, you really have to reach to find something that didn’t work for the Blackhawks in this one. Their power play, however, didn’t do much. Their best chance on it was a Jonathan Toews shot on their second power play; that shot was blocked before it got to Marc-Andre Fleury. Their third power play, which came on a phantom tripping call on Conor Sheary, was their quietest of the night.

Star of the game: Tanner Kero. The kid’s been alright at second-line center, and he did a little bit of everything on Wednesday night. Kero had five shots on goal, the secondary assist on Artemi Panarin’s early goal and added a breakaway goal of his own early in the third period. He also won five of 11 faceoffs. Centering Patrick Kane and Panarin could be daunting but in his short time there, Kero’s handling it very well.

He Said It: “It’s a nice opportunity that he’s taken advantage of in a short amount of time. You get a little more defensive responsibility. The upside with him is we wanted him to get better offensively as well, so it’s been a good couple of games.” Coach Joel Quenneville on Kero.

By the Numbers: 

850 – Career coaching victories for Quenneville.

524 – Career goals for Marian Hossa, who scored his 25th of the season late in the first period.

39 – Time, in seconds, in which the Blackhawks scored two goals late in the first period (Marcus Kruger at 19:05 and Marian Hossa at 19:44).

6 – Consecutive victories for the Blackhawks over the Penguins. They’ve outscored the Penguins 20-8 over that span.