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Blackhawks look to spoil Predators’ chance at Central Division title

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Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg are vying for the title on the final day.

Chicago Blackhawks v Nashville Predators - Game Three Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The Blackhawks won’t be in the playoffs this spring, so they have two options: play spoiler or lose for better draft lottery odds.

Chicago will have a major say in the Central Division title race when they visit the Predators on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena.

The Blues, Jets and Predators all have a shot at winning the division title and setting up a first-round matchup with the Western Conference’s first wild card, which will go to the Avalanche or Stars. The team that finishes with the second wild card will play the top-seeded Flames.

The Blues play an early home game against the Canucks, so if St. Louis falls in regulation they’ll be locked into the third spot in the Central.

The Predators won the division last season, while the Blues last division title was in 2015. Both times each team failed to reach the Western Conference Final. The Jets haven’t won a divisional title since relocating from Atlanta, where the franchise won the Southeast title in 2007 but were swept by the Rangers in the first round.

Canucks at Blues, 3 p.m.

Blackhawks at Predators, 7 p.m.

Wild at Stars, 7 p.m.

Jets at Coyotes, 9 p.m.

Avalanche at Sharks, 9:30 p.m.

Here are the clinching scenarios:

Got all that? Good.

Chicago is coming off a 6-1 home win over the Stars on Friday for their first home finale victory since 2014. Patrick Kane scored twice to increase his totals to 44 goals and career-high 109 points. He’ll need a hat trick Saturday to eclipse his career-high of 46 goals from the 2015-16 season.

The Blackhawks’ win came with a cost, though, as No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford left in the second period due to a groin injury and didn’t travel with the team to Nashville. Cam Ward made 25 saves on 26 shots in relief and became the 28th netminder in NHL history to play in a 700th regular season game.

Ward, who might be retiring after his 14th NHL season, could start against the Predators or the Blackhawks may turn to rookie Kevin Lankinen. The 23-year-old Lankinen was called up from the AHL after the game as a result of Crawford’s injury.

Lankinen is one of three goalies Chicago’s AHL interim head coach Derek King carries, but the Finnish netminder didn’t travel with the team this weekend to Texas. Lankinen is in his first professional season in North America after signing with Chicago last May. He’s 5-2-1 in his last eight outings, and 7-7-4 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 18 AHL games this season.

Projected lineups

Blackhawks

Caggiula — Toews — Kane

DeBrincat — Strome — Perlini

Saad — Anisimov — Kahun

Kampf — Kruger — Hayden

Keith — Gustafsson

Forsling — Seabrook

Koekkoek — Murphy

Ward

Lankinen

Predators

Forsberg — Johansen — Arvidsson

Granlund — Turris — Smith

Sissons — Bonino — Watson

Boyle — Jarnkrok — Simmonds

Josi — Ellis

Ekholm — Subban

Hamhuis — Fabbro

Rinne

Saros

How to watch

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Location: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville

TV: NBC Sports Chicago