I Could Go For Some More BBQ: Predators @ Blackhawks - Preview/Pre-Game Thread/Ballet Recital

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Game Time: 7:30 PM
TV/Radio: CSN/WGN720
Hopefully Spending Our Tax Dollars Well: On the Forecheck

I never know what to really say in these previews against teams the Hawks have played extremely recently. Usually I'm worried about just repeating myself or whoever wrote the preview before me. So forgive me if this sounds familiar. Let me first say thanks to everyone who came out to Nashville on Saturday. Despite the game, I hope you all had a great time like we did. Also, it was a pleasure to finally meet Dirk from On the Forecheck. A great guy running simply one of the best hockey blogs out there.

As Hack mentioned in his preview - The Predators are once again getting everything possible out of a group that on paper simply doesn't seem like they should be setting the world on fire. Yet there they are, breathing down the necks of not only the Blackhawks but the entire Central Division, and by extention, the Western Conference in general. A win tonight in regulation will pull the Preds even with both the Blackhawks and the Blues and just a few points short of the Red Wings who are opening some space in the Central, even if it is ever so small.

The Preds have gained this ground by having an unreal start to their new year. Since the calendar turned over, they've only lost twice, going 9-2-0 and outscoring opponents 37-21 in that stretch. Goalie Pekka Rinne is clearly a large part of the Preds success and they're going to be turning to the Finn once again despite his start in Columbus last night. One would hope that may mean Rinne would show some signs of fatigue but a game against Columbus is pretty much just a scrimmage at this point. The BJs managed a single goal on 26 shots last night. Rinne has been just as rock solid as the rest of the Predators lately with an 8 game winning streak he's attempting to continue tonight. Sadly, the game in which Rinne had the lowest Sv% in this streak was against the Hawks... though that's largely due the Hawks lack of ability to get anything on net that game.

The Predators are also getting an usually large amount of scoring support to back up their goalies as well. The Preadators have a new scoring leader in Martin Erat who has 5 points in the last three games and 12 in the new year so far. Kevin Klein, fresh off his Oscarsnub for his work in No Strings Attached, will be hoping to repeat his annoying performance from Saturday and with Corey Crawford in net, hopefully he and the rest of the Predators don't get too confident. The rest of the story remains the same for the Preds. They're going to have outstanding team effort and stick to their plan. The Predators are one of the better road teams in the league with a 13-9-1 record so the Hawks will have their hands full.

Luckily, the Hawks have been damn good at home lately and they're looking for their 6th consecutive home victory tonight. Though the odds are stacked against them with both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp spending time on the shelf. That's a big gap for any team to fill though theoretically the Hawks still have the pieces that should pick up the slack. Marian Hossa is the one who seems to want to do most of the heavy lifting. He's still got an 8 game point streak going with 10 overall. He had the Hawks only two goals Saturday and doesn't show much signs of slowing down any. One would hope that Patrick Kane would choose this time to wake up for the year but I'm not holding my breath for too long. Sadly, Viktor Stalberg seems to be falling back to earth with only 4 points since his hat trick against Columbus. The Predators play a style that Stals is always going to suffer against with their focus on team defense rather than trying to stick with the Hawks as they open up the game.

So this preview probably isn't inspiring much confidence but it's not all bad news. The Hawks have the pieces where they can handle the Predators, especially at home where the Hawks can be absolutely dominant. The Predators are also the ones with hopefully some tired legs as they played against Columbus last night but the Predators pulled up by two goals relatively early in the Third period, allowing them some rest. This is the last game for both teams before the All-Star Break though so they can afford to leave it all on the ice tonight. Hopefully the Hawks can exact revenge for being embarrassed in the Music City over the weekend.

Oh, anyone out in the suburbs want to watch this game with me? I'm running a small event for work at the new Buffalo Wild Wings in Schaumburg. I'll be pouring free samples of beer and could use some other Hawk fans to watch the game with. If you're in the area, stop on by.

Let's Go Hawks