A bye week and then an All-Star Weekend have given the Chicago Blackhawks plenty of time off in January. But things get busier for the next 2.5 months, starting with Tuesday night’s return to the ice on the road against the Nashville Predators.
Not that the Predators needed good news, considering how well they’ve played in the first portion of the season, but it appears that their most lethal scoring threat will be back in the lineup on Tuesday. Filip Forsberg, who’s been out since late December, returned to practice on Monday, reuniting with Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson on the top line. Forsberg was averaging nearly a point per game before his injury, although he had gone seven games without a goal. But that top line torched the rest of the league in the first half of the season, helping the Predators built a hefty point total in 2017. Kevin Fiala continues to provide plenty of scoring punch (13 goals, 17 assists) from the second line while being just 21 years old.
And don’t forget about the back end, where Nashville boasts one of the deepest blue lines in the game. Central Division All-Star captain PK Subban leads the Preds with 37 points and Roman Josi is no slouch with 28 points of his own. Nashville entered the All-Star break on a hot streak, winning six of its last seven games. And Pekka Rinne figures to be the starting goalie on Tuesday night, with Nashville winning in each of his last five starts. Special teams have been just that in Nashville, too. Its power play is ranked third at 23.81% and its penalty kill eighth at 82.68%. There’s a lot to like about this team, and it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that they’re among the league’s elite in 2017-18.
But that’d only make a win over the Predators more satisfying, wouldn’t it? The last time we saw the Blackhawks, they demolished the Detroit Red Wings 5-1, a strong showing against the lesser opponent that they’ve struggled to beat all season. Riding that wave as he is known to do, coach Joel Quenneville will stay with a largely similar lineup, including Anton Forsberg in net. Chicago has had their chances in three games against Nashville this season, but have managed only one win so far: a 2-1 overtime victory way back in October.
Thursday night’s result helped inject some life into the Blackhawks playoff pulse. Chicago’s win, combined with multiple losses by the teams ahead of them, increased the Hawks’ playoff chances from 13 percent to 19 percent, according to this tweet from The Athletic’s Scott Powers.
You’re damn right there is.
|F1||Alex DeBrincat - Jonathan Toews - Anthony Duclair|
|F2||Brandon Saad - Nick Schmaltz - Patrick Kane|
|F3||Ryan Hartman - Artem Anisimov - Tommy Wingels|
|F4||Tomas Jurco - David Kampf - Vinnie Hinostroza|
|D1||Duncan Keith - Jordan Oesterle|
|D2||Erik Gustaffson - Brent Seabrook|
|D3||Michal Kempny - Connor Murphy|
|F1||Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Brock Boeser|
|F2||Thomas Vanek - Bo Horvat - Loui Eriksson|
|F3||Sven Baertschi - Brandon Sutter - Markus Granlund|
|F4||Brendan Gaunce - Sam Gagner - Jake Virtanen|
|D1||Alexander Edler - Troy Stecher|
|D2||Michael Del Zotto - Chris Tanev|
|D3||Ben Hutton - Alex Biega|
How to watch Blackhawks at Predators
Start time: 7:00 p.m. CT
Location: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville
TV: NBC Sports Network, NBC Sports Chicago