The Nashville Predators earned a pair of wins over the Chicago Blackhawks just before the All-Star break, but they haven’t been pleased with their play since then. The Predators’ three-game skid, however, pales in comparison with the Blackhawks’ recent struggles.
They’ll seek to avoid matching their longest losing streak of the season Tuesday night when they host Chicago, losers of eight straight and 10 in a row on the road.
Nashville (32-18-6) claimed a 5-2 home win over the Blackhawks on Jan. 21 by scoring three times in the second period then used a pair of early goals for a 3-1 victory at the United Center three days later. Those wins were part of a five-game streak and a 13-2-0 stretch.
Since the break, the Predators are 2-2-2 and have allowed three or more goals in five of those games. Nashville gave up the tying score with 1:07 left in regulation Saturday in Boston before losing 4-3 in a shootout.
“We have to get better,” center David Legwand told the team’s website. “You don’t want to go down to the final stretch of games and have to worry about the race night-in and night-out.”
The team that might already be worrying about that race for the playoffs is the Blackhawks (29-20-7). Chicago has gone from having the most points in the NHL to having only five more than the Western Conference’s ninth-place teams, Calgary and Colorado.
Chicago has been outscored 35-15 during its 0-7-1 skid and is 0 for 16 on the power play through six of its nine consecutive road games. They couldn’t take advantage of three such opportunities in a 3-0 loss to Phoenix on Saturday.
“You win because the entire team was on the same page from top to bottom,” forward Patrick Sharp told the Blackhawks’ website. “We’ve seen that in the past and this season, and we want to get back to it (Tuesday).”
A trip to Nashville might not help since the Blackhawks are 4-4-3 in their last 11 regular-season visits to Bridgestone Arena, and the Predators are 13-2-1 in their last 16 there. Chicago, however, won two of three on the road during the 2010 playoffs en route to the Stanley Cup.
Pekka Rinne was in net for the Predators in that series and will likely be there Tuesday. He’s allowed 10 goals during Nashville’s 0-1-2 skid, but has given up a combined three in his past two games against Chicago and two apiece in the last three home matchups.
Ray Emery, meanwhile, is expected to start for the Blackhawks after allowing 13 goals over his past four appearances. While with Anaheim last season, the veteran started the final five games of a playoff series against the Predators and had a 3.19 goals-against average during the 4-2 defeat.
He lost 6-0 in his only regular-season start versus Nashville on Dec. 14, 2006, while with Ottawa.
To have a better result in this game, Emery will need to keep a close watch on Mike Fisher and Patric Hornqvist. Fisher has nine goals over his last 10 games, while Hornqvist has five goals and five assists in his past nine.
Hornqvist has five points against Chicago this season and rookie Craig Smith has scored in each of the three matchups.
The Blackhawks are hoping a game against Nashville will help leading scorer Marian Hossa end a six-game point drought. He has a team-best six points (two goals, four assists) against the Predators this season.
Chicago hasn’t dropped nine straight since an 0-8-2 skid Jan. 4-26, 2007, and is on its longest road losing streak since a franchise-worst, 19-game skid Nov. 10, 2003-Jan. 29, 2004.