Predators aim to resume resurgence against Blackhawks
Ten days removed from snapping a 10-game road losing streak, the Nashville Predators will look to resume their sudden resurgence away from Bridgestone Arena when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night.
Central Division-leading Nashville (26-15-3, 55 points) improved to 2-1 on its season-high, six-game road trip with Monday's 4-0 shutout at Toronto, giving the club three victories in its past four games away from home.
"It's not long ago when we really struggled on the road, so these are huge for us," Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne told the team's website after blanking the Maple Leafs for his 54th career shutout. "Especially mentally, confidence-wise, it's big to win on the road and in a building like this one with one of the top teams in the league. It gains some confidence for the group."
Nashville has won four of its past five games after losing six straight in December -- four of those on the road.
Versatile offense and disciplined defense have helped keep the Predators one point ahead of Winnipeg in the division standings while maintaining a comfortable lead on the rest of the Central pack, including Chicago (16-22-7, 39 points).
The Predators have outscored opponents 16-4 in four games since transitioning to the 2019 portion of their schedule, with Craig Smith (four goals) and Viktor Arvidsson (three) leading the charge. Nashville also is excelling on the other end, allowing a season-low 18 shots at Toronto.
"It's a great effort," defenseman P.K. Subban told the Predators' website after the Toronto game. "Our past two games is Preds hockey. That's the way we play when we're playing our best. We did a good job of limiting their top players' opportunities. The past two games, our sticks have been unbelievable in all three zones."
The Blackhawks are aiming to rebound from Monday's competitive 4-3 home loss to the Western Conference-leading Calgary Flames. Chicago is 7-4-2 in its past 13 games but knows it can't settle for moral victories.
A win against the Flames would have brought the Blackhawks to within four points of a playoff spot.
"We need points and we need to get them every night, and that's what we're battling for," Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat told reporters after the Calgary game. "Overall, I thought we played all right but didn't get any points, so it doesn't really help us."
Rookie Collin Delia shined in net against Calgary, stopping 39 of 42 shots. Delia is 3-1-1 with a 2.19 goals-against average in five starts spelling Cam Ward. The duo is sharing time in goal while Corey Crawford recovers from a concussion.
Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton reaffirmed his confidence in Delia, who has made seven career NHL starts, after the Calgary game.
"He's been everything we've asked with the opportunities he's received," Colliton said. "We still don't want to overplay him. We want to allow him to keep his level."
The season series between the Blackhawks and Predators is tied at one game apiece. Host Nashville routed Chicago, 5-2, on Dec. 1, before the Blackhawks edged the visiting Predators, 2-1, on Dec. 18.
After Wednesday, Chicago and Nashville are not set to meet again until the regular season finale on April 6 in Nashville.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 8, 2019