NASHVILLE — The Blackhawks' lines looked pretty much as they did when the postseason began, especially the top two. But with the Blackhawks right now, it doesn't seem to matter who's lined up with whom. It's the overall play which has been the problem, and regardless of lineup, that has to change on Monday night.
Nick Schmaltz is back on the top line and the defensive top six will also be the same when the Blackhawks face the Nashville Predators in Game 3 of their first-round series on Monday. The Blackhawks went into full line-blender mode on Saturday, when the Predators drubbed them 5-0. Nothing worked, so they’ll go back to what was successful a good part of the season.
What has to change is the compete level.
"It's how we play and how we compete that has to be raised to the level needed come playoff time. That's probably the one thing that sticks out, the certain standard you expect everybody to be at," coach Joel Quenneville said following skatearound. "We have to meet it tonight and get that engagement across the board."
Just getting a goal at this point would be a great moral victory for the Blackhawks. Getting the lead would be outstanding but again, finding some consistency is needed first.
"Well, of course, we want to play ahead, we want to start with a lead. But we haven't had the first 20 minutes, the first periods we've been looking for in the first two games. We'll look to improve there," Jonathan Toews. "At the end of the day, it has to be energy, speed and just that competitive nature has to kick in right away and we can't wait for them to wake us up. We'll start with that and try to, in some ways, be the guys that try and frustrate and agitate them a little bit."
The Predators are in good shape coming back home but they want to avoid what they did last spring. They took a 2-0 lead in Anaheim, only to come home and lose Games 3 and 4 at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators would end up beating the Ducks seven games but now that they have an edge on the Blackhawks, they want to keep it.
"You always say it but just sitting back for a half a second and they jump all over you. It's a desperate team and they're going to be playing like that," James Neal said. "[The Blackhawks] have been in a lot of different positions over the years and in the playoffs and have come out successful. We have to be ready to go with our game, we have to have the desperation in our building, get on the attack and do everything hard, fast and strong tonight."
BLACKHAWKS AT NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Live stream: CSNChicago.com or NBC Sports app
Radio: WGN 720 AM
Nick Schmaltz-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa
Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Jordin Tootoo
Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Johnny Oduya-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk
INJURIES/ILLNESS: Michal Rozsival (facial fractures), Andrew Desjardins (lower body)
Forward lines (projected/Predators had optional skate)
Filip Forsberg-Ryan Johansen-Viktor Arvidsson
Harry Zolnierczyk-Mike Fisher-Austin Watson
Kevin Fiala-Calle Jarnkrok-James Neal
Pontus Aberg-Colton Sissons-Craig Smith
Roman Josi-Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm-P.K. Subban
Yannick Weber-Matt Irwin
INJURIES/ILLNESS: Colin Wilson (lower body).