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Predators look to avoid elimination in Game 5 vs. Blackhawks

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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.”

Updates

— 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.

Jonathan Toews leading the way for bounce-back Blackhawks

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USA Today

Jonathan Toews leading the way for bounce-back Blackhawks

Patrick Kane is the one a hair away from 1,000 career points, but Saturday night it seemed liked Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was the one hungry for a major milestone. 

Toews sits at 798 career points after a four-point outing (two goals, two assists) in the Hawks' 6-2 win in Toronto over the Maple Leafs, giving Chicago their fourth straight win and a perfect three-game road trip through Eastern Canada with the first two wins coming against the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens. 

After a mostly up-and-down season, the Hawks are now three games above .500 (23-20-6) and four points out of a Wild Card spot with two games at home (Sunday and Tuesday) before heading to the All-Star break. 

"We take it one game at a time and I think we're doing a great job of focusing on the task at hand and whatever situation we find ourselves in, we're playing good hockey," Toews said. "It's fun. I think we're playing a complete game right now. We're showing each other what our potential really is if we play the right way and we're getting the results for our hard work."

The Blackhawks captain has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in a five-game point streak. After a slow start to the season, the 2010 Conn Smythe trophy winner is performing beyond a point-a-game pace since Nov. 2. 

Toews scored five-hole on Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen at 5:32 of the first period, then scored on a wraparound at 3:19 of the second. He later assisted on Dominik Kubalik's goal to put the Hawks up 5-1 at 10:58 of the second and set up Kubalik's marker at 17:42 of the second to give Chicago a 6-2 lead and the final score.

"Not a whole lot of leads you feel comfortable with against this team," Toews said following the contest. "They're pretty explosive offensively, so I think all five guys were pretty cognizant of who you're playing against and just making sure we're trying to frustrate them, take away their ability to create and our offense kind of came from that."

The captain's assist on Kubalik's second goal of the game was one of the most impressive plays of the season across the league. Toews backhanded the puck towards the net from the right wall and Kubalik hit it in cleanly with his blade in mid-air in front of the net past Andersen.

"I (thought) it was maybe a foot or two lower, like on the ice," Toews said of his impressive pass from the boards. "It was probably more my intention, but just kind of floated one in there and as they say, you can't give a good player a bad pass, I tried my best on that one and he still found a way to get a stick on it."

Toews seems to have Andersen's number. He's scored 10 goals on the goalie in his career, including five during the regular season and five across seven days in the 2015 Western Conference final.

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3 Takeaways: Jonathan Toews grabs 4 points, Blackhawks grab 4-straight wins

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USA Today

3 Takeaways: Jonathan Toews grabs 4 points, Blackhawks grab 4-straight wins

Here are some takeaways from the Blackhawks fourth-straight win as Patrick Kane continues his quest for 1K:

Streaking Hawks

The Blackhawks won their fourth straight game on Saturday in Toronto 6-2. The victory gave the Hawks a perfect three-game sweep to close out their road trip in Eastern Canada. 

The Hawks won 3-2 against the Senators in Ottawa on Tuesday and 4-1 over the Canadiens in Montreal on Wednesday. 

Chicago is now three games over .500 (23-20-6) and four points out of a Wild Card spot. 

Drake Caggiula scored 21 seconds in to set the tone and put the Hawks ahead 1-0 with a trick shot, bouncing the puck over goalie Frederik Andersen's back, from behind the goal line and later picked up an assist. Caggiula has points in two straight after grabbing a goal and an assist in Montreal.

His energy and buzz around the net has been incredibly noticeable and something that's given Chicago a lift during the streak and since he returned from a concussion five games ago. 

The Blackhawks play the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday and the Florida Panthers on Tuesday (Q!!!!), both at the United Center before the All-Star break. 

Saad returns

Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad returned to the lineup after being sidelined since Dec. 19 with a right-ankle injury. The Hawks were missing the winger who can be effective anywhere in the lineup and was one of the most consistently good players on the team prior to his injury.

Saad was given a big opportunity on Saturday, being thrown on the left wing of the Hawks' second line with Ryan Carpenter centering and Patrick Kane on the right. 

Saad had 19 points (11 goals, eight assists) in 36 games with the Hawks this season before being injured. On Saturday, he scored at 11:02 of the first period, putting the Hawks up 3-0 and giving Kane, who assisted on the goal, career point No. 999.

Johnny be good

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews kept up his stellar play of late and extended his point streak to five games, grabbing four points in Toronto. 

Toews scored five-hole on Andersen at 5:32 of the first period, then scored on a wraparound at 3:19 of the second. He later assisted on Dominik Kubalik's goal to put the Hawks up 5-1 at 10:58 of the second.

Toews also set up Kubalik's marker at 17:42 of the second to give Chicago a 6-2 lead, backhanding the puck towards the net from the right wall to Kubalik, who hit it in cleanly with his blade in mid-air past Andersen.

Toews has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) during his streak. 

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.