CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 07: Matt Halischuk #24 of the Nashville Predators is chased by Marian Hossa #81 and Duncan Keith #2 of the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on April 7, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

NHL on NBCSN: Hawks, Preds have very different agendas

NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Nashville Predators at the United Center at 8:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

No matter what happens, the Chicago Blackhawks will enter the postseason with the first seed in the Western Conference, but they still have one thing left to fight for before the playoffs start: the Presidents’ Trophy.

“We still want to keep moving forward, whether we’re looking at Pittsburgh or still looking at how we play,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told CSN Chicago.

Chicago has a four-point cushion on the Pittsburgh Penguins with a game in hand, so you’d think that the Blackhawks already have the Presidents’ Trophy all-but locked up. However, Pittsburgh has won 20 of their last 22 games and has shown no signs of letting up, so a mediocre finish from the Blackhawks could cost them their final regular season goal.

They’ll face a Predators team that has lost seven consecutive games and doesn’t have a ton left to play for as a squad. At the same time, there are young players with Nashville that have something to prove and likely see a tough team like Chicago as an ideal opponent to showcase their skills.

One example of that is 18-year-old forward Filip Forsberg. There was plenty of hype surrounding him when he made his NHL debut on Sunday and he’s going into this game looking for his first NHL point.

“He’s got really good hands and a heavy shot,” Predators coach Barry Trotz recently told The Tennessean. “I love the fact he loves to shoot the puck, and I think he has really good instincts when he has the puck. Just like every young player, he has to learn to play without the puck a little bit.”

We’ll see if Forsberg and the other players competing for jobs next season can give the surging Blackhawks trouble tonight.

Probable goaltenders: CHI – Corey Crawford (17-4-4, 1.92 GAA, .926 SV%) | NSH – Pekka Rinne (14-16-7, 2.35 GAA, .914 SV%)

Top scorers: CHI – Patrick Kane (20-27-47, 42 GP) | NSH – David Legwand (11-12-23, 44 GP) and Shea Weber (8-15-23, 44 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Chicago – Forwards: Patrick Sharp (shoulder – questionable) Goaltenders: Ray Emery (leg)
Nashville – Forwards: Patric Hornqvist (upper body), Brandon Yip (lower body), Paul Gaustad (shoulder), Mike Fisher (hand), Gabriel Bourque (upper body), Colin Wilson (shoulder) Defensemen: Kevin Klein (undisclosed)

Larkin will start season with Red Wings

Dylan Larkin
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Dylan Larkin — despite being just 19 years old — will begin the season on the Detroit Red Wings, a team not normally accustomed to having teenagers in the lineup.

Coach Jeff Blashill confirmed the news this morning. Larkin could apparently start on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader.

Larkin, the 15th overall pick in the 2014 draft, had three goals and one assist in five preseason games. A natural center, he’s shown the potential to one day step into the kind of “big-time” role that Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have played for so long in Detroit.

“You have to give our scouts credit,” former coach Mike Babcock told ESPN in May. “We got a great pick where we picked. How high end is he? How soon?”

Related: Coaching change ‘one of the reasons’ Larkin signed with Wings

Preseason stats: Five goalies with good numbers, five goalies with…not

Anders Nilsson
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Yeah, yeah, it’s a small sample size and it’s just the preseason, but here are some goaltending stats anyway.

Five goalies with good numbers

Anders Nilsson, Edmonton — zero goals on 53 shots. His solid play a likely factor in the decision to waive Ben Scrivens, who actually wasn’t that bad in the preseason (4 goals on 56 shots).

Martin Jones, San Jose — three goals on 100 shots. The Sharks are rolling the dice on a couple of cheap goalies. Jones and Alex Stalock have a combined cap hit of just $4.6 million.

Jacob Markstom, Vancouver — three goals on 79 shots. Can he finally get over the NHL hump? If so, he could make it a real competition with Ryan Miller.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus — five goals on 122 shots. The Blue Jackets have scored a ton of goals in the preseason, but there remain questions about their blue line. Bobrovsky has the ability to make a so-so defense look good.

Anton Khudobin, Anaheim — two goals on 67 shots. A good early sign for the Ducks, who have Frederik Andersen in the starting role and want to give young John Gibson more time to develop in the AHL.

Five goalies with bad numbers

Thomas Greiss, Islanders — 14 goals on 94 shots. Has to be a bit of concern in Brooklyn. The Isles got below-average backup play last season from Chad Johnson. They wanted to fix that with the Greiss signing.

Robin Lehner, Buffalo — 11 goals on 95 shots. Tim Murray paid a hefty price to get the 24-year-old out of Ottawa. With the aforementioned Johnson in the backup role, the goaltending story is worth watching.

Jeff Zatkoff, Pittsburgh — 11 goals on 74 shots. Granted, Marc-Andre Fleury and Matthew Murray weren’t particularly sharp either. The Penguins conceded 28 goals in eight games.

Kari Lehtonen, Dallas — 15 goals on 84 shots. For a Stars team that desperately needs better goaltending, that has to be worrying. Antti Niemi wasn’t a whole lot better either, allowing eight goals on 65 shots. Fair question to ask — how many of all those goals were attributable to poor defensive play?

Pekka Rinne, Nashville — 12 goals on 91 shots. Has earned the benefit of the doubt, but thought we’d point it out anyway.