Tonight at 7 p.m. at the Bridgestone Arena, we will find out if the Chicago Blackhawks or the Nashville Predators are hungrier for a victory. Both teams are on the skids but have found different ways to get there.
The Predators have lost three in a row but have picked up two points via shoot-out losses to both of last season's Stanley Cup finalists, Vancouver and Boston. The Predators slide is not completely unexpected, coming on the heels of a 14-3-0 run dating back to the end of December.
During the Predators' hot streak, the team seemed to find ways to win almost every night. During the three losses the Preds did not play particularly poorly, just not good enough to get the two points. Potentially, you could blame it on the hockey gods evening things out.
Since the all-star break, the Preds are 2-2-2 and have given up exactly four goals in five of the six contests. They are probably lucky to have picked up six points considering that prior to these games, the team was 2-8-2 in games when four or more goals were allowed.
Chicago's slide is much more pronounced, having lost eight in a row, and only picking up one point along the way in an overtime loss at Vancouver. Prior to the streak, the Hawks were flying high and actually led the Central Division at one point.
The Hawks' run started with a pair of losses to the Preds on January 21 and 24. Tonight's game is the seventh in a nine game road trip (tied for longest in team history) that won't get any easier as they travel to New York after the game to play the Rangers on Thursday.
Losing has come in a variety of ways for the Blackhawks recently, but was highlighted in a 8-4 loss to Edmonton on Groundhog Day when Sam Gagner picked up eight points. Their last stumble was on Saturday in Phoenix when Mike Smith shut down the Hawks' 38 shots in a goaltending exhibition and picked up a 3-0 shut-out.
On a positive note, both teams have fared well within the division with the Predators going 12-2-2 against Central opponents and the Hawks going 7-3-2. Nashville leads this year's series with Chicago 2-1-0.
So the stage is set for tonight's game to see who is more desperate for a win in the all important divisional contest. It is another four point game with the Preds holding a five point lead over Chicago, but having fallen five points back of St. Louis and eight behind Detroit during their week-long hiccup.
Tickets are still available so make your way to Lower Broad for a game that should be another barn-burner.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass