Hawks have shot to sweep Preds in home-and-home
Sunday, 12.27.2009 / 5:00 PM
NHL.comPREDATORS (22-13-3) at BLACKHAWKS (25-9-3)
Last 10 --
Nashville 6-3-1; Chicago 8-2-0
Season series --
It's the sixth and final meeting of the season between the Central Division rivals. The Blackhawks have won three of the first five, including Saturday night's 4-1 win at Nashville.
Big story --
The Blackhawks come into the game knowing they'll be on top of the division after the weekend. Their 4-1 victory over Nashville gave them 53 points, six more than the Predators, who could have pulled even with a sweep. Instead, it's the Blackhawks who have a chance to go home with four points -- and their 16-4-1 home record is among the best in the NHL.
The scenario was perfect for the Predators -- a sellout crowd at the Sommet Center and a chance to gain ground on the team ahead of them in the division race. Instead, Nashville came out flat and allowed the Hawks to take control in the final 30 minutes after Martin Erat had tied the game at 1-1.
"There has to be more urgency and more fire in the belly," coach Barry Trotz said. "It was not just another game against Chicago. It's not one of 82. You are battling for something. If we're not battling then our expectations for ourselves are too low."
If you can play a perfect game, the Hawks might have done it Saturday night in Nashville. They got goals from four players, stifled the previously hot Predators offense and went home with a 4-1 victory in the front end of the home-and-home -- giving them a six-point lead over Nashville in the Central Division.
"It was an important game for us and we responded," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We did a lot of things right. I thought we got to the net well. I thought we moved the puck well. Every line was contributing. We were good in all areas."
Who's hot --
Chicago's Dustin Byfuglien has 3 goals in five games against Nashville after scoring Saturday night. … Erat has 3 goals and an assist in four games against Chicago.
Injury report --
Cam Barker (lower body) and Ben Eager (upper body) both returned for the Hawks on Saturday, while forward Kris Versteeg and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson
were under the weather and sat out. … Nashville forward Jerred Smithson is out indefinitely with a broken left hand.
Stat pack --
Chicago leads the NHL with just 75 goals allowed, four fewer than New Jersey. … Nashville has scored just twice in its last two games (both losses) after piling up 23 goals while winning its previous four games.
Puck drop --
The challenge for the Predators is to regroup quickly after a disappointing loss that dropped them to sixth in the Western Conference standings.
"We are going to correct what we didn't do today, and we are going to go into Chicago with what I hope will be our best effort," Trotz said. "I'm OK if your best effort isn't good enough – night in and night out. That's part of the game – that's part of sports. But we need more people sacrificing a little bit more. We need everybody all in and tonight we had some guys who weren't quite all in."