Predators’ hot special teams a tall task for Chicago and its interim coach

NHL

Saaros plus special teams equals sizzling.

That equation has continued to spell success for the Nashville Predators, who have won five of their last six as they enter Sunday’s game in Chicago against the struggling Blackhawks.

Goaltender Juuse Saros boasts four of the victories in that span after saving 26 shots in Friday’s 3-2 victory at Vancouver, the third stop on the club’s current six-game road trip.

The Blackhawks will be looking to turn the page on an ugly chapter in their history. The teamfired head coach Jeremy Colliton on Saturday following a 1-9-2 start and also relieved assistant coaches Tomas Mitell and Sheldon Brookbank of their duties.

Chicago continues to deal with significant off-the-ice issues stemming from a sexual assault allegation against one of their former employees from a decade ago.

The front office promoted Derek King from AHL Rockville and announced him as the team’s interim head coach.

“It has been an extremely difficult couple of weeks for our organization, and we have had to come to terms with a number of necessary changes,” Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz said. “As we look to move forward, we know we must earn back the trust of our fans, and we are grateful for the support of our entire community as we work to do just that.

On the ice, Chicago will hope to build more consistency in its attack. Forward Alex DeBrincat has been limited to zero shots on goal in two of the past three games. Overall, the club had a season-low 18 shots on goal Friday.

“We need to play for each other more, play with more pride, play with more confidence, play with more energy,” Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy said. “Just (play) for each other is the biggest thing we can do.”

That will be especially difficult against a hot goalie like the Predators’ Saros.

“He makes big saves at big times, and that’s what elite goaltenders do,” Nashville coach John Hynes said. “You can’t win without great goaltending, and I think we’ve had that for pretty much all year, whether it’s been Juice or when Connor (Ingram) had come in and played well, but it’s always nice to see just the consistency that he’s playing with, the confidence that he’s playing with.

“He made big saves at big times, and that’s what you need from your goalie.”

Saros helped Nashville turn away each of the Canucks’ five power-play opportunities Friday.

Offensively, Roman Josi and Philip Tomasino both scored on the man-advantage, with Tomasino’s tally at 19:15 of the second period standing up as the game-winner.

Tomasino called the Predators’ special teams “huge.” His coach concurred.

“On the power play, we talked about some different things, but they continue to be able to execute,” Hynes said. “As we all know, special teams are such a big part of the game, and it’s nice to see both units building chemistry, building some confidence, because there’s production, but also building the identities of each special team.”

–Field Level Media

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