NHL on NBCSN: Preds look to deliver blow to Blackhawks’ playoff chances

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues on Tuesday, as the Nashville Predators host the Chicago Blackhawks at 8:00 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here

It’s been a while since we’ve seen the Chicago Blackhawks this far out of the playoff picture at this point of the season. Coming out of the All-Star break, the ‘Hawks find themselves four points back of Colorado for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. The Avs also have a game in hand.

Making up four points isn’t insurmountable, but what complicates the matter is that they’d have to leap over four teams to get there.

The ‘Hawks are coming off a 5-1 win in Detroit in their last game before the All-Star break. They’re back on the road starting tonight, and they’ll also visit Vancouver and Calgary before the end of the week. These next three matchups won’t be easy, especially without starting goaltender Corey Crawford, who is still out because of vertigo-like symptoms.

Crawford has the green light to work out, but he still hasn’t received clearance to participate in on-ice workouts just yet.

“We’re optimistic he can have a good week here and get on [the ice] later in the week,” head coach Joel Quenneville said of his goalie, per the Chicago Sun-Times.

“He’s around; you see him. You think he’s close to getting on the ice, so he’s showing all the signs that he’ll be helping us at some point.”

But will he be back in time to save Chicago’s season?

As for the Predators, they’re not battling for their playoff lives like Chicago is, but they’re in the hunt for top spot in the Central Division. Heading into tonight’s game, the Preds are one point behind the first-place Winnipeg Jets, but Nashville has three games in hand.

The 2017-18 season has gone well for the Predators, which is scary considering they’ve dealt with some serious injury troubles all year. Ryan Ellis missed most of the first half of the season, Filip Forsberg has been out for 10 games and Viktor Arvidsson missed some games, too.

Forsberg ditched his non-contact jersey on Monday and he was practicing on the top line with Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson.

With everyone getting healthy, the Preds could be ready to pull away from the rest of the division pretty soon. Another run to the cup final could also be in the cards for this team.

“We always try to get better, and there’s always room for improvement,” defenseman Roman Josi said, per the team’s website. “We had a good first half and played some really good hockey, but I think there’s still room for improvement and hopefully we can play our best down the road.”

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

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