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I Knew You Were Trouble: Blackhawks at Predators preview

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This is a must-win game for the Blackhawks, who trail the Predators by four points for the fourth seed in the Central.

Chicago Blackhawks v Nashville Predators
Mikael Granlund of the Nashville Predators battles for the puck against Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks during the first period
Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

The Blackhawks have a game in hand on the Predators and they’re down four points — a gap that can be closed in the final 12 games of the season. Yet Wednesday’s game against Nashville is a must-win game for the Blackhawks, who cannot afford to fall behind by six points, especially now that the Stars have passed the Blackhawks as well, despite Dallas’ hectic schedule. The Stars are one point up on the Blackhawks and still have two games in hand.

Yet Chicago may again be without Adam Boqvist — still recovering from concussion symptoms — and Wyatt Kalynuk, who left Monday’s game with a hip injury after playing just 1:42. Jeremy Colliton did not offer any confirmation of their status after the morning skate:

Nashville is still without important contributors in Filip Forsberg, Dante Fabbro and Eeli Tolvanen as well.

One thing Colliton did confirm is that Malcolm Subban will start in net. Kevin Lankinen, in 40:40 of ice time on Monday, gave up five goals on 22 shots, facing 1.33 expected goals against. Subban came in and made eight saves on eight shots, facing 0.71 expected goals against. Subban is also the hot hand, with a 29-save shutout against the Red Wings in his last start on Saturday.

Juuse Saros, on the other end, remains hot, stopping 30 of the Blackhawks’ 32 shots with 2.15 expected goals against and now owns a .970 save percentage in four games against Chicago this season.

The Predators’ first line of Calle Jarnkrok, Luke Kunin and Mikael Granlund led the team as both Jarnkrok and Kunin had a goal and assist, while Granlund finished with two assists. The Predators are led by those three forwards in the season set against the Blackhawks as well, as Kunin has six points, Granlund has five and Jarnkrok has four. If the Blackhawks are going to beat the Predators, it starts with containing that trio.

That remains a big if. as the Blackhawks have just two points in the standings against the Predators, both overtime losses, both at the start of the season (Jan. 26 and 27). Chicago is 0-4-2 against Nashville this season, and to stay afloat in the playoff race, the Blackhawks need to leave this three-game series (that started Monday) with two victories.

The Blackhawks have four points from Pius Suter against the Predators, three from Patrick Kane (all assists) and three from Alex DeBrincat (all goals). The only other Hawk with more than one point against Nashville is David Kampf.

Chicago has struggled at 5-on-5 against the Predators this season, at least in terms of quantity, as the Blackhawks have a 49.21 shots for percentage against Nashville. However, the Blackhawks have a 53.57 expected goal percentage. But part of that is a standout game on Apr. 3 when the Blackhawks had 3.47 expected goals (1.29 against). In four of the six games this season, Nashville has outproduced the Blackhawks in expected goals.

In terms of playoff hopes, these may be two of the most important games this season.

Blackhawks — Statistic — Predators

47.07% (26th) — 5-on-5 Corsi for — 50.44% (14th)

45.49% (30th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 49.66 (18th)

2.76 (19th) — Goals per game — 2.57 (25th)

3.09 (20th) — Goals against per game — 2.81 (15th)

46.8% (28th) — Faceoffs — 51.6% (8th)

23.6% (7th) — Power play — 18.3% (22nd)

75.8% (27th) — Penalty kill — 75.0% (29th)

Projected lineups (subject to change)

Blackhawks

Hinostroza — Suter — Kane

DeBrincat — Dach — Gaudette

Kubalik — Kurashev — Strome

Connolly — Kampf — Carpenter

de Haan — Murphy

Keith — Mitchell

Stillman — Zadorov

Subban

Lankinen

Predators

Grimaldi — Johansen — Arvidsson

Jarnrok — Granlund — Kunin

Cousins — Haula — Duchene

Trenin — Sissons — Jeannot

Josi — Benning

Ekholm — Ellis

Harpur — Gudbranson

Saros/Rinne

How to watch

When: 6 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports

Live stream: NBC Sports app