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.

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona


Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

The wait is almost over.

After missing nearly 10 months with a concussion, Corey Crawford said he expects to start on Thursday when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center. An official decision will come following the team's morning skate.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. ... It was a pretty long process. But I think the most important thing was not to rush anything. When I finally was out, it got to a point where I wasn’t in shape to play and it was time to rest and it’s unfortunate it took a lot longer than I would’ve liked. 

"It’s been long, but finally, just to get back and be practicing with the team has meant a lot. It’s good to get to this point now when you’re really close to playing. Practices have been great, been getting timing a little bit more and getting up to speed and reading shots and all that, so it'll be nice to finally get in one."

Crawford's last appearance in an NHL game was Dec. 23, 2017 against the New Jersey Devils when he allowed three goals on seven shots in 13:22 of action before getting pulled. So of course, emotions will naturally be running high, especially in front of the hometown crowd.

"I'm sure I'll be a little anxious getting into it," Crawford said. "Some nerves. But we'll see. We'll wait until the morning, but I'm definitely excited I can tell you that."

It's obviously terrific news for the Blackhawks, who have picked up eight out of a possible 10 points to start the season and are getting their two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie back between the pipes. It's been a long time coming, and Crawford is coming back into a healthy situation where the Blackhawks are in a good spot in the standings.

"It's great news, I'm sure it'll be exciting for him exciting for our team, exciting for our fans and the organization as well," Patrick Kane said. "It’s probably a good situation all around. Cam [Ward] has done a great job of playing in the net so far. Crow is really good in practice right now, so I’m sure he’s itching to get back, too. We’ve had a good start here. It’s something we want to keep going, and I’m sure him coming back on home ice, in front of our crowd, will be a fun one for him and for our team."

There's no doubting how important Crawford is the team and organization. While there may be a little bit of rust early on, the Blackhawks are expecting him to look like his old self.

"He means a lot to the team," Quenneville said. "We felt last year was a good example of how important he was and how well he was playing for us, as well. We’ve gotten off to a decent start and he was a big factor in it. We know that goaltending is such a big part of the team and your success a lot of nights depends on him and his consistency’s always been in place.

"But he looks good in the net. He’s been off for a long, long time. Is there rust? Do we expect rust? I think the way he’s competing and practicing and finding pucks, he looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. So we’re looking forward to him getting in there and getting comfortable and how he’s feeling going forward will dictate a lot of the decisions about him going back in."

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns


Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!