There is only one game on NBCSN Wednesday as the Chicago Blackhawks will try and even the two-game series with the Predators after Nashville upended them 3-2 in overtime Tuesday on the first goal of the season from last year’s Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s best defenseman, Roman Josi.
Editor’s Note: The Chicago Blackhawks will face the Nashville Predators Wednesday on NBCSN starting at 6:30 pm ET or livestream all the action here.
CHICAGO @ NASHVILLE
The star of the game should be Chicago’s Patrick Kane, perhaps the greatest American player ever to grace the NHL. Kane saw his five-game points streak come to an end Tuesday but he still has three goals and seven points in seven games. The 32-year-old who was selected first overall in the 2007 Draft, won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in 2007-08, the Conn Smythe as the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2013 and had his best year in 2015-16 when he won the Hart Trophy (MVP of the NHL) the Ted Lindsay (MVP as voted upon by the players) and the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s top scorer. In addition, he has won three Stanley Cups with Chicago and has 392 goal and 1,029 points in 980 games.
Both Chicago and Nashville have serious holes in their games in the early going, with goaltending at the top of the list.
The Blackhawks have been rotating three goaltenders, Collin Delia, Malcolm Subban and Kevin Lankinen, with the third-stringer Lankinen providing the best goalkeeping of the bunch as he is 2-0-1 while Delia is 0-2-0 and Subban, the most experienced of the three, 0-1-1. Expect to see Lankinen in goal as Subban was in the crease Tuesday, stopping 36-of-39 shots in taking the overtime loss.
There is also a goaltending problem in Nashville. It used to be that Pekka Rinne was one of the top-five goaltenders in the NHL, and that went on for years. But things turned around last season as the now 38-year-old started showing his age. He went 18-14-4 with a 3.17 goals-against-average and a .895 save percentage, by far the worst in his 12-year NHL career. He has not been any better this season, going 1-1 (after Tuesday’s win) with a 2.97 GAA and a .862 save percentage. The Predators have been using Juuse Saros more often as he is 2-2-0 with a 3.02 GAA and a .905 save percentage and he is expected to start Wednesday.
The Blackhawks are hurting as their top two centers, Jonathan Toews and Kriby Dach are both out, possibly for the entire season. Toews, the Chicago captain for the last 12-and-a-half seasons, is out with an undisclosed medical issue while Dach broke his wrist and is out until late April or May. The Blackhawks also have a COVID-19 issue as both Alex DeBrincat and Adam Boqvist, two of their young stars, are in the NHL’s protocol.
Nashville has a strong defense, led by the aforementioned Josi, as well as Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm. On forward they are led by Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene. On paper the Predators should be challenging for a playoff spot in the Central as Tampa Bay, Dallas and Florida are better but Nashville is on par with Columbus while Detroit and Chicago are the also-rans in the division.
Other players to watch Wednesday include: Chicago’s Dominik Kubalik, Dylan Strome and rookie Pius Suter who picked up a hat trick Sunday. Keep an eye on Viktor Arvidsson, Erik Haula and Mikael Granlund on the Nashville side.
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Line combinations change all the time, even during the same period but this is what Wednesday’s game could look like.
These combinations were used Tuesday with the exception of the goaltenders and they could change before game time.