Considering how well the Nashville Predators have fared against the rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks as of late, they seem to be in good position to continue a current surge of success.
Looking to match their season-high four-game winning streak, the Predators will try for a sixth straight victory over the visiting Blackhawks on Thursday night.
Following Tuesday’s 2-1 home victory over Detroit, Nashville is 8-2-1 since Feb. 21. And, despite trading valuable contributors like Nino Niederreiter, Tanner Jeannot, Mattias Ekholm and Mikael Granlund, the Predators currently find themselves four points out of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
“You always want to make the playoffs, right? … Especially with a lot of guys getting their first taste, it’s maybe a little extra jump for us,” Nashville forward Tommy Novak, who has 35 points in 61 career games spanning this season and last, told The Tennessean.
“We’re not counting ourselves out for sure. That’s our main goal right now.”
Novak has scored four of his 13 goals this season during Nashville’s three-game winning streak. He has two with an assist in his last three games against the Blackhawks, who have been outscored 20-9 during an 0-4-1 slide against the Predators.
Nashville is amid an impressive 13-0-3 stretch against Chicago and has won six straight and nine of the last 10 meetings at home.
The Predators’ Juuse Saros (2.75 goals-against average), who made 28 saves on Tuesday, has a stellar 1.73 GAA and .945 save percentage during his current 10-0-2 starting stretch versus Chicago.
Meanwhile, ex-Blackhawk Kevin Lankinen has yet to face his former team this season, but has stopped 56 of 58 shots faced in winning both March starts for Nashville.
The Blackhawks sit second-to-last in the West standings and are mired in an 0-4-1 road rut. However, with an even younger and less-potent roster than it began the season with, Chicago beat the NHL-leading Boston Bruins 6-3 on Tuesday for just its second win in the last nine games.
Second-year forward Taylor Raddysh recorded his first-career hat trick Tuesday to reach the 20-goal mark. He has totaled six goals with an assist in the last four contests for Chicago, which last posted consecutive victories as part of a five-game winning streak from Feb. 17-25.
“Every night we feel like we need to bring effort like (we did against the Bruins),” Raddysh, who does not have a single point in four career games versus Nashville, told the Blackhawks’ official website.
“We’re gonna get it, and we just want to continue to keep growing.”
Chicago’s Petr Mrazek stopped all 16 shots he faced Tuesday before exiting in the second period with what Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson called a groin issue. According to NBC Sports Chicago, Mrazek is not expected to be available for this contest.
Teammate Alex Stalock (2.80 GAA), who came in to stop 23 of 26 shots versus Boston, could get the nod in this contest on the road, where he’s lost all five starts this season.
Nashville star Matt Duchene has just one point in his last seven games overall, but has totaled two goals with three assists during a four-game home point streak against the Blackhawks.
–Field Level Media