King and interim GM Kyle Davidson met with the media following Sunday’s morning skate and the two appeared to say most of the right things. The trickier part will be doing the right things, with that pair inheriting a franchise coming off perhaps the most tumultuous month — both on and off the ice — in the organization’s history.
The first on-ice test for this new regime will be a divisional foe in the Predators, who reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season largely due to their success against the Blackhawks: Nashville took 15 of a possible 16 points (7-0-1) from its eight games with Chicago in 2021.
Nashville was on the verge of a complete blow-up last season before a second-half surge helped the team reach the postseason. Still, it’s a tricky spot for the Predators right now, who appear in that “sports purgatory” area between not being good enough for title contention but not bad enough for a full rebuild. The Predators are surging right now, though, winning five of their last six including a 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night. That spurt has erased memories of a dreadful 1-4 start.
It’s all familiar faces who are leading Nashville’s production: defenseman Roman Josi has a team high 12 points (8 G, 4 A), followed by forwards Matt Duchene (5 G, 5 A), Mikael Granlund (2 G, 8 A) and Ryan Johansen (4 G, 4 A). Filip Forsberg is also up there with four goals and three assists but he has not played since Wednesday due to an upper-body injury and his status for this one remains questionable.
Juuse Saros has taken over in net full-time for the now-retired Pekka Rinne, and Saros has fared well with a 5-4 record, 2.34 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in the early stages of the season.
As for the Blackhawks, a new coach and GM brings with it a fresh slate for everyone on the ice, although that does not include the team’s record, which remains an abysmal 1-9-2. Still, as Davidson mentioned on Sunday morning, the team has no choice but to press on despite the odds being heavily tracked against it:
Davidson on expectations the rest of season: “You find out if you’re a playoff team in April, and let’s be honest, the math is not in our favor on that.”— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) November 7, 2021
Says he thinks they can still learn a lot over the coming months about how the players respond to the “blank slate.”
Start with one win and see where it goes from there — that’s about all they can do right now.
Blackhawks — Statistic — Predators
45.09% (30th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 49.39% (20th)
47.32% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 54.93% (16th)
2.17 (29th) — Goals per game — 2.73 (20th)
3.92 (31st) — Goals against per game — 2.82 (15th)
49.4% (19th) — Faceoffs — 51.9% (10th)
22.2% (13th) — Power play — 28.6% (3rd)
87.5% (5th) — Penalty kill — 80.0% (19th)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
DeBrincat — Dach — Kane
Kubalik — Toews — Hagel
Entwistle — Strome — Hardman
Kurashev — Carpenter — Khaira
Stillman — Jones
McCabe — Murphy
de Haan — Gustafsson
Kunin — Granlund — Duchene
Tolvanen — Johansen — Grimaldi
Trenin — Sissons — Jeannot
Cousins — Novak — Tomasino
Josi — Fabbro
Ekholm — Carrier
Borowiecki — Benning
How to watch
When: 6 p.m. CT
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Live stream: ESPN+