Although they might not get points for style, the Blackhawks have been piling up points in the standings versus their Central Division rivals.
Chicago looks to beat the Predators for the third time in a week as it tries to sweep a home-and-home set Sunday night at the United Center.
These teams should be plenty familiar with one another after the Blackhawks (28-5-4) defeated the Predators 3-2 in a shootout Monday in Chicago and 1-0 Saturday in Nashville. Bryan Bickell scored 5:31 into the first period Saturday and Emery did the rest, stopping 20 shots for his second shutout in three starts.
“That’s a team that you’ve really got to play some boring hockey against,” Emery said of the Predators. “You just try to be in good defensive position and take advantage when you get the opportunity. And I thought we played that strategy to a T.”
Although Emery isn’t convinced facing Nashville promotes Chicago’s high-powered offense, the Blackhawks have had plenty of scoring chances in the past two meetings. They had 30 shots Saturday after amassing 40 five days earlier.
The play of Pekka Rinne is a big reason Chicago has totaled three regulation goals in the last two meetings - just shy of its season average per game - although he was caught out of position on Bickell’s goal.
The loss was the fifth in six games for Nashville (15-16-8), which is in 12th place in the Western Conference and four points back of eighth-place St. Louis.
“Obviously you know the standings and everything, but you try not to look at it right now,” Rinne said. “You try to focus on one game at a time. Now it’s (Sunday) night, and it is not going to get any easier. We have a pretty big task on our hands if we want to make it and we have to start winning some games.”
Getting a win Sunday could be tough given Nashville’s struggles on the road.
The Predators have lost six straight and 12 of 13 away from Nashville. They haven’t dropped seven consecutive road games since Dec. 8-Jan. 11, 2009.
The Predators are struggling to score regardless of the venue, tallying two goals or fewer in four of five games - with two of those being 1-0 defeats. Nashville has been shut out a league-high seven times, with Chicago responsible for two.
It hasn’t helped that the Predators are playing without center Paul Gaustad whose upper-body injury will keep him out at least a couple more games, along with leading goal-scorer Gabriel Bourque and forward Colin Wilson
The Blackhawks, winners of three of four, are also a bit banged-up, though Joel Quenneville said both Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland are questionable for Sunday. Sharp hasn’t played since March 6 because of an upper-body injury.
Quenneville seems likely to go with Corey Crawford between the pipes in the second half of this back-to-back. Crawford stopped 25 shots Monday, and had 17 saves in a 3-0 win at Nashville on Feb. 10.