Though they are just two games into the season, the Chicago Blackhawks are already facing some adversity.
The Blackhawks will be trying to prevent their worst start in nearly 11 years on Monday, when they play their home opener against the Central Division rival Nashville Predators.
Chicago (0-2-0) entered the season with expectations of returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2001-02, but hasn’t made much progress after enduring a pair of 4-2 losses, falling in New York to the Rangers in Friday’s opener and then to Washington on Saturday night.
The Blackhawks were unable to hang onto a 2-0 lead on Saturday, losing their first two games for the first time since 1999-2000. They haven’t lost three straight to start a season since dropping seven in a row to open 1997-98.
“We’re still not there,” said defenseman Brian Campbell, who signed an eight-year, $57.12 million deal with Chicago as a free agent in July. “We’re still making a few mistakes that (put) the puck in our net.”
Aside from making those defensive mistakes in the first two contests, Chicago has been outshot 63-53 and has faltered on all eight of its power-play opportunities.
Campbell collected a career-high 62 points playing for Buffalo and San Jose last season, but scored five of his eight goals with the man advantage.
The two-time All-Star’s presence is expected to boost a power-play unit that ranked 24th in the league (15.9 percent) in 2007-08, but he’ll face a challenge against a Nashville team that finished third with an 85.6 penalty-kill percentage.
The Blackhawks posted a 5-1-2 mark versus the Predators (1-1-0) in 2007-08, winning three of four as a host. They held a 28-19 scoring advantage in the season series.
Chicago has won four of its last six home openers.
Nashville, meanwhile, kicks off a three-game road trip following a 3-1 home win over Dallas on Saturday. The Predators rebounded from a 5-2 loss at St. Louis in Friday’s opener.
“They responded. They took it as a challenge and said that we are better than we were yesterday,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said.
Jason Arnott contributed two power-play goals and an assist, while J.P. Dumont added a career high-tying three assists. The linemates led the Predators with 72 points apiece last season with Arnott providing 28 goals and 44 assists and Dumont finishing with 29 and 43, respectively.
“He seems to find me wherever I am,” Arnott said of Dumont. “We kind of created that chemistry and bond. We’re talking all the time. When we’re coming to the bench, he’s saying, ‘Did you see me here? Did you see me there?’ Because next time when you get on the ice, he’s going to be there.”
Arnott has 18 goals and 24 assists in 46 lifetime contests versus Chicago, while Dumont—who played 72 games from 1998-00 with the Blackhawks—has five goals and 12 assists in 21 all-time matchups.
Goaltender Dan Ellis stopped 19 of 20 shots, and helped Nashville kill off all five of its penalties on Saturday.
Chicago’s netminders, meanwhile, have each struggled so far. Free-agent acquisition Cristobal Huet started Friday’s opener and Khabibulin was in the net Saturday, but Monday’s starter hasn’t been decided yet.
Huet, signed to a four-year contract in July, may be a better choice since he is 3-0-1 with a 1.80 GAA in four career games against Nashville. Khabibulin is 10-10-2 with a tie and a 3.07 GAA in 23 starts versus the Predators.