Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Preds host struggling Blackhawks in Valentine's Day matchup

The Nashville Predators will take on the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night at Bridgesone Arena in a Valentine's Day showdown. Both teams have been on a slide as of late. Nashville has lost their past three games, but only one of the losses has come in regulation. Chicago has gone winless in their last eight games, and have lost seven of those eight in regulation.

Chicago's flabbergasting slide began the last time they visited Bridgestone Arena when the Predators dealt the Blackhawks a 5-2 loss in dominating fashion. Since that game, the Blackhawks have been outscored by a 30-15 margin.

Nashville is coming off of a 4-3 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins in a game where they were fortunate to get a point. Boston dominated the game from start to finish, but the Predators were able to get key saves from Pekka Rinne to keep them in the game.

The biggest key for both teams in Tuesday night's game is to get out to a fast start. Both Nashville and Chicago have been struggling as of late, so a good start will really inflate the confidence of the team that is able to grab the momentum out of the gate.

Ray Emery will likely be starting in net for the Blackhawks on Tuesday night. The Predators have had a significant amount of success against Emery over the past calendar year. Emery was the goaltender for the Anaheim Ducks in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs when Nashville defeated Anaheim in six games. Rinne will almost certainly be getting the call for the Predators on Tuesday night.

Tuesday night's showdown in Smashville is a crucial game for both Nashville and Chicago. If the Predators win in regulation, they will increase their lead in the standings over the Blackhawks to seven points. If Chicago is able to get the regulation win, they move within three points of the Predators in the Western Conference standings.

My player to watch for the Blackhawks is Patrick Sharp. Sharp hasn't been in the lineup for the Blackhawks in their last to matchups with the Predators, and both of those games resulted in Nashville victories. Sharp always seems to be a big difference-maker in games against Nashville.

For the Predators, my player to watch is Jordin Tootoo. Tootoo has been in a dry spell offensively as of late, posting only one point in his last 12 games. He has already put up a career high in points with 22 on the season. The third line could be the difference in this game, and Tootoo has been the consistent all-around player on the third line so far this year.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

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