Predators look to avoid elimination in Game 5 vs. Blackhawks


Predators look to avoid elimination in Game 5 vs. Blackhawks

NASHVILLE — The numbers don’t lie. At least that’s how Predators coach Peter Laviolette looks at it.

“I checked again this morning and it’s 3-1 Chicago,” he said of the Blackhawks’ lead in this first-round series. “I wish it said something different but it doesn’t, and that’s the bottom line.”

[MORE: Predators 'will not go away quietly' after Game 4 loss]

To judge the series solely on looking at that number and not the games, it would seem lopsided. But this series has been close, with two games going into multiple overtimes to be decided. Nevertheless, the Blackhawks are still on the cusp of eliminating the Predators tonight, when they face them in Game 5 tonight here at Bridgestone Arena. And the Blackhawks would rather get this series done sooner than later.

“You never want to play an extra shift, an extra game in the playoffs if you can avoid it,” said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. “We know we’ll have a dangerous opponent tonight. This building will be loud, they’ll be hungry and they’re going to come at us. We expect this challenge to be our toughest. Let’s try to quiet the crowd as quickly as we can but expect a real hungry opponent. Let’s go one period at a time and leave it out there tonight.”

This series, thanks in part to those aforementioned overtime games, has been grueling through the first four games. A few days of rest would be very beneficial for the Blackhawks, knowing, if they advance, their next opponent will be either St. Louis or Minnesota. The Blues trounced the Wild on Wednesday night, evening that series at 2-2.

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The Predators have been good in this series and it hasn’t been enough. Tonight, they need to be even better.

“You can’t get to the second round by playing well; you have to win hockey games,” Laviolette said. “Over the course of any game, whether you’re playing well or not, there are always things you can do better. Whether pushing, getting one more scoring chance, getting on the power play, whatever it may be, we talk about trying to get better. That’s all you can do.”


— Predators forward Mike Fisher skated this morning but Colin Wilson did not. Laviolette wouldn’t divulge anyone’s playing status, however. That included defenseman Shea Weber (lower body), who was injured in Game 2 and did not skate this morning.

— Quenneville said he was “likely” going with the same lineup as in Game 4. The Blackhawks had an optional skate this morning. 

— Scott Darling will start tonight for the Blackhawks. Pekka Rinne will be in for the Predators.

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'


Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?