Tonight’s ‘Hawks-Preds game is big, as far as early-season games go

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It’s tough hyping a late-October game in Nashville but hey, hear us out.

Tonight at Bridgestone, the Central Division-leading Predators will host the second-place Blackhawks in what will be the second meeting in six days between the two clubs. It promises to be an engaging affair, especially after Chicago beat Nashville 2-1 in OT on Saturday at the United Center — a game in which Preds head coach Peter Laviolette felt his club left something on the table.

“We had opportunities to win [Saturday] in the third period,” Laviolette said, per the Preds website. “There’s an opportunity where we could walk away with two [points] right there as well. It was disappointing because you’re on a power play in overtime and that’s a chance to seal the game and walk out with that extra point and that was frustrating for us.

“[Tonight is] a chance to get back and play a big game, certainly for a lot of different reasons.”

Those reasons?

— Neither team has lost in regulation yet. Nashville (4-0-2) has been one of the NHL’s early-season surprises and created a pretty effective top line in Filip Forsberg, Mike Ribeiro and James Neal, which has combined for 12 points thus far. Chicago (4-0-1), meanwhile, has been tremendous defensively, allowing just seven goals all season and three in its last three games.

— Nashville’s “Keep The Red Out” initiative is still going strong:

— On Saturday, the Preds gave No. 1 netminder Pekka Rinne a rest and played backup Carter Hutton, who responded with a stellar 35-save effort. Tonight, Chicago will counter with its backup as Antti Raanta gets the nod ahead of the injured Corey Crawford (who stopped 19 of 20 shots on Saturday). Raanta was solid in his first outing of the year on Tuesday against Philadelphia, posting a 32-save shutout.