Blackhawks 1, Predators 0

Bucky Dent, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Bridgestone Arena is known as one of the toughest venues for a visitor in the National Hockey League.
But it had more of a neutral-ice, March Madness feel Saturday as several thousand Chicago fans came south to watch their Blackhawks deal another blow to the Nashville Predators' fading playoff hopes with a 1-0 win.
Ray Emery turned away 20 shots for Chicago (28-5-4), which moved five points ahead of the Anaheim Ducks for the top spot in the Western Conference and two points in front of the Pittsburgh Penguins for home ice throughout the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Predators (15-16-8) remained four points behind the St. Louis Blues for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. They have just nine games left, three less than the Blues.
The game's only tally came at 5:31 of the first period as Bryan Bickell turned a 2-on-1 into his seventh goal of the year, courtesy of Michal Handzus' pretty setup which left Bickell with a wide-open net.
Nothing else got past Nashville goalkeeper Pekka Rinne, who finished with 29 saves, many of the excellent variety. He denied Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on three point-blank chances in the first period.
However, Emery was great when asked to be. The backup netminder improved to 13-1-0, keeping the Predators from evening the game midway through the second period when he stoned Nick Spaling's one-timer from the slot.
Nashville earned a four-minute power play at 7:58 of the third when Daniel Carcillo high-sticked Shea Weber, but the Predators couldn't even get a shot on net.
Notes: Nashville reassigned defenseman Ryan Ellis to Milwaukee of the American Hockey League after calling him up under emergency conditions for Thursday night's 3-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Defenseman Victor Bartley returned to the lineup after missing the Columbus game due to illness. ... Chicago's Patrick Sharp missed his 13th straight game due to injury. ... Predators defenseman Hal Gill celebrated his 38th birthday Saturday, making him the oldest player in club history. Gill played in the 1,093rd match of his career. ... The Blackhawks' 4-3 shootout loss Thursday night against St. Louis was just their seventh defeat in 22 one-goal games this year.

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