Reeling Hawks head to Nashville
BLACKHAWKS (29-20-7) at PREDATORS (32-18-6)
: CSN-CH, FS-TN
: Chicago 2-7-1; Nashville 6-2-2
: This is the fourth of six meetings between the Central Division rivals. The Predators have picked up five out of a possible six points (2-0-1). The Blackhawks lone win over Nashville this season was a 5-4 overtime decision in Chicago on Oct. 31.
: Both teams will try to snap slumps, though the Blackhawks is far more pronounced. They've lost five in a row in regulation and eight straight overall (0-7-1). The Predators have dropped three straight, but that includes two shootout losses.
: Chicago's problems began in Nashville on Jan. 21 with a 5-2 loss. The Hawks have picked up only one point since and are coming off a 3-0 loss at Phoenix on Saturday.
There were rumors that coach Joel Quenneville's job was in jeopardy, but GM Stan Bowman put those to bed on Monday when he told Comcast SportsNet Chicago that he is "absolutely the guy" going forward. Bowman also gave a vote of confidence to heavily criticized goaltenders Corey Crawford
and Ray Emery
by saying trading for a goalie is "not a priority."
Bowman, though, is actively looking to bolster the Blackhawks' roster. Chicago was first in the Western Conference prior to their loss at Nashville on Jan. 21, but Marian Hossa
, Jonathan Toews
and Patrick Kane
have combined for just 3 goals and 3 assists in the last eight games.
"It's easy to point fingers and look around the room to say what's wrong, but for sure the top players need to step up and be your top players," Kane said according to the Chicago Tribune. "We need to score some goals. We have to take over games, battle, show leadership with the way we're playing so everyone can kind of follow us."
: They've gone three games in a row without a win, but the big picture speaks volumes for how well the Predators have been playing. They're 14-4-2 in their last 20 games and they finally have a top line that has been clicking.
Martin Erat, Mike Fisher and Sergei Kostitsyn have breathed new life into the Predators' offense. Erat has 19 points in his last 18 games; Fisher has 10 points in the last 10 games; Kostitsyn has16 points in his last 18 games.
Patric Hornqvist is keeping up with 10 points in his last nine games.
All that said, the Predators are still only 2-2-2 in the six games since the All-Star break. They know they're not playing their best.
"That was a terrible game for us," defenseman Ryan Suter told The Tennessean after Saturday's 4-3 shootout loss to Boston, a game that included the Bruins' 41-22 edge in shots on goal. "We came out slow. In the second period, we looked like a minor hockey team. Second half of the second period we started to play a little bit better. We were very fortunate to get one point."
: Fisher scored again Saturday, giving the Predators' center eight goals in the last eight games. … Like all of his teammates, Patrick Sharp
was shutout in Phoenix on Saturday night, but prior to that game he had six points on two goals and four assists in the previous four games.
: The Predators have been without Brian McGratton (upper-body injury) for the last three games. … The Hawks will be without a pair of top-six defensemen as both Niklas Hjalmarsson
(upper-body) and Steve Montador
(upper-body) will not play.
: Hossa is looking for a breakout game, and this could be the one. He has 6 points in three games against Nashville this season. He has no points in six games since participating in the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa.
: The Hawks could start Tuesday's game with a top-line of Toews, Kane and Sharp. It's usually Quenneville's go-to move when the team is slumping.
"We've played together in the past and have had success, the three of us," Sharp said according to the Chicago Tribune. "Right now, we're looking for any kind of a spark offensively to put the puck in the net. Hopefully the three of us can do that."