After a grueling first half of the season, the Blackhawks finally appear to have turned a corner.
The Blackhawks have lost three of their past five games, but all of those losses were close games well into the third period. They lost to the Bruins in a close and exciting Winter Classic, the Islanders in overtime in a game that saw Collin Delia steal a point and the Flames in Delia’s “worst” game at the NHL-level.
The recent run contrasts the two eight-game losing streaks to end 2018 when the Blackhawks couldn’t buy a goal let alone two points.
Behind a goaltending revelation in Delia and improved play from Cam Ward, the Blackhawks have a light at the end of Corey Crawford-less tunnel.
While the Blackhawks face a much-healthier Predators team Wednesday night at the United Center than their previous two matchups, Chicago’s defense should be bolstered by the presence Henri Jokiharju. The Finnish blue liner will make his return to the lineup after winning gold at the World Junior Championship. He has no goals and 11 assists in 32 NHL games this season.
Chicago didn’t see two defensemen attend Wednesday’s morning skate. Brent Seabrook (illness) will be a game-time decision, while Gustav Forsling (upper-torso) could miss his second straight game.
Delia was in the starter’s net during practice, but wasn’t confirmed the starter. He is 3-1-1 with a 2.19 goals-against average and .947 save percentage since being called up from the AHL in December.
The only announced lineup change is forward John Hayden entering the fold for veteran Chris Kunitz.
Nashville, on the other hand, is trending upward since activating forward Viktor Arvidsson (broken thumb) off injured reserve. The Predators spiraled downward behind a laundry list of injuries, including ailments to Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg.
The Predators, however, now lead the Central Division after improving to 2-0-1 on their six-game road trip with Monday’s 4-0 win at Toronto for their third win in four games away from the Music City.
Nashville still has lingering injury issues, with Miikka Salomaki, Kyle Turris and Yannick Weber still on IR.
Pekka Rinne is expected to start for Nashville. He’s 16-10-2 with a 2.23 GAA and .921 save percentage in 30 starts this season.
The season series is tied 1-1 between the two divisional foes. Chicago lost 5-2 on Dec. 1 in Nashville then beat the Predators 2-1 on Dec. 18 at home. After Wednesday, the two divisional foes will not meet until the regular-season finale April 6 in Nashville.
Saad — Toews — Kahun
Anisimov — Strome — Kane
DeBrincat — Kampf — Perlini
Hayden — Kruger — Caggiula
Keith — Jokiharju
Gustafsson — Seabrook(?)
Dahlstrom — Murphy
Forsberg — Johansen — Arvidsson
Fiala — Sissons — Smith
Jarnkrok — Bonino — Watson
Hartman — Gaudreau — Grimaldi
Josi — Ellis
Ekholm — Subban
Hamhuis- — Irwin
How to Watch
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBC Sports Network