The Chicago Blackhawks are closing out a six-game road trip in Nashville on Sunday night. It is hard to imagine the past two weeks going any better for the 'Hawks on the road, but with all but this final game of the trip under their belts, it is time to get a little greedy.
The Blackhawks are ending a stretch of nine of 11 games played outside of the United Center. Chicago has collected eight of a possible 10 points on the road trip and lead the Nashville Predators in the Central Division standings by six points.
Nashville has been a tough opponent in recent seasons and a grind-out type of contest has to be expected. The Predators have played extra minutes in six of their first 11 games. Any time Barry Trotz is manning the bench, a team can expect a three-period battle—and then some.
Though the 'Hawks are the visiting team on the scoreboard, they come into the contest with two days of rest behind them. Nashville returns from a 2-1 overtime loss to the Wild on Saturday night that broke a four-game winning streak.
Prior to Saturday, the Predators had beaten San Jose and St. Louis. Those wins were sandwiched by a pair of victories against the L.A. Kings. This is still a team to take seriously despite losing Ryan Suter last summer to free agency.
Both starters in net are well rested for Sunday's clash. Corey Crawford gets back in the saddle after having last played Tuesday in San Jose. Across the ice looms the imposing form of Pekka Rinne.
Rinne had the night off in Nashville's loss Saturday. Prior to that, he had allowed just three goals in his last four starts. That includes a 3-0 blanking of Los Angeles in his last appearance Thursday.
The 'Hawks come into the game scoring almost a point-and-a-half per contest more than Nashville, which is currently at a 2.18-per-game clip. Veteran Martin Erat and young Colin Wilson pace the Predators offense right now. Both players have three goals and four assists on the season.
Five Blackhawks exceed or match those point totals. Chicago is coming off of three wins in which it has scored 13 regulation goals, but Trotz and Rinne figure to make each goal hard-fought.
Chicago holds a sizable advantage in the special teams, especially in its league-leading penalty kill. Nashville is converting on 15.70 percent of its man-advantage opportunities and has allowed eight power-play goals.
Visions of home and an upcoming seven-game homestand for the 'Hawks could result in a letdown Sunday as the road trip ends. Chicago was 2-4 against the Predators a season ago and was 1-2 in Bridgestone Arena.
Dropping this contest wouldn't be unforgivable considering the plethora of road tilts the Blackhawks have skated and the tenacity of the opponent. However, with the team on a hot streak and another two points available, we can all hope that the 'Hawks are still hungry as they close out the road trip.