The Nashville Predators (31-21-8) are coming off one of the most horrendous periods of hockey of the season at Columbus on Tuesday to face the defending World Champion Chicago Blackhawks (31-23-6) at the Bridgestone Arena tonight at 7 p.m.
While a win in tonight's game is critical to staying in the top eight in the West, the Preds also need to do something to jump start the team and move in a positive direction after two very poor outings against Columbus and Phoenix. It has now been a calendar week since the team looked very inspired on the ice for more than a few shifts.
The Preds are expected to have Ryan Suter and Sergei Kostitsyn back in the line up after each missed Tuesday's game due to injuries suffered in last Saturday's game with Phoenix. Barry Trotz also indicated that Jon Blum could remain in the line up as he was pleased with Tuesday's performance.
The Blackhawks expect to have Head Coach Joel Quenneville back on the bench tonight after he has been out for over a week when he was hospitalized with a bleeding ulcer.
Tonight's game will be the last of the Predators and Hawks six game season series. The Predators currently have a 3-2 lead in games this year. Nashville won 3-2 on October 13, 4-3 on November 13 in a shoot out, and 3-2 on January 15 also in a shoot out. Chicago won 4-1 on December 22 and 6-3 on January 16.
Nashville has been very inconsistent since the All-Star break going 4-4-2, mixing exceptionable efforts and real groaners in the process. The Hawks have been a bit better going 5-3-2 during the same period.
Heading in to the game, Nashville has 70 points (7th) and Chicago has 68 (9th) as both teams are mired in the Western Conference logjam of seven teams that are within two points and are ranked fifth through eleventh.
Pekka Rinne (21-16-6, 2.14, .928) is expected to start in goal for the Predators while potential Calder Trophy candidate Cory Crawford (20-12-3, 2.17, .921) has settled in to the number one goalies slot for the Hawks.
After tonight's game, the Predators will face a quick trip to Dallas for a 1 p.m. game on Saturday before they return home for a special 2 p.m. start on Sunday at the Bridgestone Arena.
Other Predator previews come from Amanda DiPaolo, Chris Burton, The Tennessean, Hockey Night in Nashville, and Predators.com.
From the Windy City comes previews from Second City Hockey, The Sun Times, The Daily Herald, and the Chicago Tribune.
Here are the NHL Game Notes for tonight's game.
Ryan Porth at RLD Radio scored a major coup with TSN's Darren Dreger appearing on yesterday's show during trade deadline week. John Forslund, the voice of the Canes and a regular at Versus was also on. We had a couple of technical glitches in the abbreviated show but it is well worth a listen.
In Pred Nation...
Josh Cooper has hints about the message Barry Trotz has been delivering since Tuesday's loss at Columbus. Josh also has a story about Jon Blum wanting to stick in the NHL and a notes column.
The Predators put Marek Svatos on waivers yesterday and we should know at 11 a.m. today if he clears or is claimed by another team. No explanation was given but it appears that the Preds are clearing a roster spot for a potential trade or for a returning injured player. Jeremy Gover at Section 303 has his take on the move.
David Boclair talked to Steve Sullivan about his frustrations with wearing a mask or a cage.
Here is an interesting tidbit from the calendar from @diamondhockey: Preds are scheduled to wear their white jerseys at home tomorrow night.
Anders Lindback had a much better game last night in Milwaukee's 6-1 win over Oklahoma CIthy that extended their Western Conference lead to four points.
The NHL Examiner takes a look at the Predators at the 60 game mark.
Shea Weber is getting plenty of exposure in the area with his picture being featured om Mountain Dew and Orange Crush cans. Each can is worth six dollars off a ticket to a Preds game.
Here is Josh Cooper's chat replay from yesterday.
Around the NHL...
Yesterday's Dreger Report indicates that Dallas could have Brad Richards in play. As discussed on yesterday's RLD Radio with Dreger, there are many complications and moving parts on a deal being done.
Phoenix's eight game win streak came to an end in Tampa last night in an 8-3 loss highlighted by a Teddy Purcell hat trick.
Puck Daddy does yeoman's work in ranking the top 20 all time deadline deals. David Legwand even makes the list.
With Jonas Hiller still having dizziness, Ray Emery has been recalled to the Anaheim Ducks. Here are his new mask and pads which are interesting.
All parties appear to be in denial but there are indications that the NHL could stream games over YouTube at some point.
I was not that excited about the Heritage Classic and even less so after the game turned out to be such a groaner. Since then, I've seen a bunch of on the scene reports like this one that made me reconsider my negativity.
Patrick Hoffman interviews our friend Chris Wassel at Kukla's Korner.
Ryan Porth is intrigued with he storyline of the Devils making the playoffs. I keep telling him that it will not happen.
The NHL wheel of justice spins again with a two game suspension for Scottie Upshall for a hit on Oskars Bartulis. Here is a video of the hit.
Odds and Ends...
The Space Shuttle Discovery is slated for its last launch today at 3:50 p.m. Central. Go here for updates and video.
So QR codes are finally taking off. Here are tips to use them effectively.
Chaco Culture Park celebrated 75 years of weather station data on February 10. It got down to -26 degrees a couple of days after we were there last month.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass