WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks face off against Predators on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

After a losing six straight games (0-5-1) in December, Nashville has rebounded with a five-game point streak (4-0-1) since New Year’s Eve. Their latest win was an impressive 4-0 victory over the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Monday. Rinne had 18 saves in his third shutout of the season.

Filip Forsberg returned to the lineup on Monday after missing 17 games with an upper-body injury. The team was 8-7-2 without him. Monday was Nashville’s first game since Nov. 10 with Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, and P.K. Subban all in the lineup.

The Blackhawks have climbed out of the basement of the NHL by going 7-4-2 since mid- December, but still have several teams to leapfrog if they want to make the playoffs. Still, they have become a tough out, as evidenced by their 4-3 loss to the Conference-leading Flames on Monday.

Patrick Kane has been red hot with 19 points (9G, 10A) in his last 11 games. He also has had multi-point games in four of his last six games. Jonathan Toews had a six-game point streak snapped on Monday, but still has 39 points (17G, 22A) in 45 games overall. Toews is on pace for 71 points and 30 goals, which would be his most productive season since 2010-11.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Nashville Predators at Chicago Blackhawks
Where: United Center
When: Wednesday, Jan. 9, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Predators-Blackhawks stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

[P.K. Subban sends inspirational message to young fan after racist taunts]

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLACKHAWKS
Alex DeBrincat – Jonathan Toews – Dominik Kahun
Artem AnisimovDylan Strome – Patrick Kane
Brandon SaadDavid Kampf – Drake Caggiula
John HaydenMarcus KrugerBrendan Perlini

Duncan KeithErik Gustafsson
Carl DahlstromConnor Murphy
Brandon Davidson – Henri Jokiharju

Starting goalie: Collin Delia

PREDATORS
Filip Forsberg – Ryan Johansen – Viktor Arvidsson
Kevin FialaColton SissonsCraig Smith
Calle JarnkrokNick BoninoAustin Watson
Ryan HartmanFrederick GaudreauRocco Grimaldi

Roman JosiRyan Ellis
P.K. Subban- Mattias Ekholm
Matt IrwinDan Hamhuis

Starting goalie: Pekka Rinne

Six-time Emmy Award-winner Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick, U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Eddie Olczyk, and ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst Pierre McGuire will have the call from United Center. Kathryn Tappen hosts NHL Live alongside analysts Mike Milbury and Keith Jones, as well as NHL insider Bob McKenzie.

MORE: Blackhawks’ Alex DeBrincat can’t stop scoring

Forsberg’s return just what Predators need

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Through the first month-and-a-half of the 2018-19 season the Nashville Predators were rolling along as one of the best teams in the NHL, just as they have over the previous two years.

Then the injuries started to pile up. And we’re not talking just any injuries. We’re talking significant injuries to the best players on the team, and all around the exact same time.

Between Nov. 1 and Dec. 27 Viktor Arvidsson played in just one game. P.K. Subban played in just six games during that stretch (and none after Nov. 13), while Filip Forsberg has been sidelined since the end of November.

Subban and Arvidsson have already returned to the lineup, and Forsberg will return Monday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs after missing time due to a hand injury.

It should be obvious as to why this is a big deal for the Predators.

For one, Forsberg is their best offensive player and one of the best in the league. He has been so good, in fact, that even though he has not played in over a month he is still tied for the team lead in goals with 14 (Craig Smith also has 14, but has played in all 43 games for the Predators … Forsberg has played in 26).

But not only that, his return will also reunite all three of the Predators’ top players for the first time in nearly two months.

It will be just the second time since the end of October — and the first time since Nov. 10 — that the Predators will have all of Forsberg, Arvidsson, and Subban in the lineup for the same game.

It will only be the 14th time all season.

These three players were, literally, their top-three scorers a season ago. Take any team’s top-three scorers away for more than a quarter of the season and it’s going to have a massively negative impact on their results, and the Predators have absolutely experienced that over the past two months.

Not only have they rarely been in the lineup together, but the Predators have played 11 games without any of them (with a 5-5-1 record) and 19 games (with a 9-9-1) record without at least two of them.

In the previous 13 games they’ve played with all three, the Predators are 10-3-0 and have averaged more than 3.6 goals per game. That is more in line with what we expect to see from this team.

The slump that coincided with the injuries has put the Predators in a tight fight with the Winnipeg Jets for the top spot in the Central Division. They’ve already started to break out of that slump with the returns of Arvidsson and Subban, and now they are on the verge of getting back their best goal-scorer as they try to keep pace with the Jets. And it’s a perfect time to start getting healthy, too, as the team is in the middle of a six-game road trip and a stretch of games where they have to face some tough, tough teams (including Toronto, Columbus, Washington, Winnipeg, Colorado and Vegas all over the next eight games).

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

The Buzzer: Hutchinson gets first win as a Maple Leaf; Kane hits 200

Associated Press
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Three stars

1. Michael Hutchinson, Toronto Maple Leafs

Hutchinson was only brought into the Maple Leafs fold this week. Now he’s started two games for them has his first shutout in those iconic threads to boot.

Being thrown into the melting pot that is Toronto and thriving like Hutchinson did on Saturday, stopping all 28 shots he faced, is a feat in itself. It’s not easy to under that microscope. But after allowing four on 34 shots in a loss to Minnesota two days ago, Hutchinson rebounded against the Elias Pettersson-less Canucks to right the ship.

Hutchinson showed at times in Winnipeg that he could play well in a Canadian market. He showed it again on Saturday.

2. Evander Kane, San Jose Sharks

It takes a special effort to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning these days.

Kane delivered one of those, scoring twice in the game to reach 14 goals on the season and 200 for his NHL career. Kane is now riding a four-game point streak, with three goals and three assists during that span.

Kane helped the Sharks snap Tampa’s seven-game winning streak.

3. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings

Normally, shutouts make it high on these three stars lists. But consider that Quick only saw 16 total shots from the Edmonton Oilers in a 4-0 win.

That’s not to discount the feat. No one asks you how you go the shutouts, just how many. And he had to make 25 percent of his saves of the stick of Connor McDavid, so that counts for something.

Quick hasn’t been special this season outside of a few performances. He allowed six goals on 33 shots in his last outing. But he’s got two shutouts now on a bad Kings team.

Other notable performances: 

  • Islanders goalie Robin Lehner picked up his seventh straight win. He’s got a .927 save percentage this season and is fitting in nicely in his new digs on Long Island.
  • Zach Parise had a goal and two assists, including the game-winner, in a 4-3 win for the Wild over the Senators.
  • Auston Matthews had a goal and two apples for Toronto.
  • Brent Burns had three assists and now has seven points in his past two games
  • Craig Smith had two goals in a 4-1 Predators win against the Canadiens

Highlights of the night

Great effort from Dubois to stick with it:

Tee it up:

Not bad for your first time:

Duchene has no time for your holds and slashes:

The goal that won the World Junior Hockey Championships:

Factoids

Scores

Flames 3, Flyers 2

Wild 4, Senators 3

Bruins 2, Sabres 1

Maple Leafs 5, Canucks 0

Predators 4, Canadiens 1

Blue Jackets 4, Panthers 3 (OT)

Islanders 4, Blues 3

Kings 4, Oilers 0

Sharks 5, Lightning 2


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Predators visit Blackhawks on NBCSN

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks with coverage beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

This is the second of four meetings between these Central Division foes. The Predators beat the Blackhawks 5-2 on Dec. 1 in Nashville. Pekka Rinne made 19 saves and five different Predators scored a goal.

During the 2016-17 season, the Blackhawks finished as the top team in the Western Conference with 109 points and faced the upstart Predators (94 points) in the First Round of the playoffs. Since Nashville delivered a surprising sweep in that series, the Preds have become one of the premiere franchises in the NHL, while the Hawks have taken a nosedive:

Last night in Ottawa, the Preds went down 3-0 in the first period and pulled Rinne, rallied back to force overtime, but fell 4-3 on Thomas Chabot’s OT winner. They have now lost seven straight on the road (0-5-2) after starting the season 8-0-0 away from Bridgestone Arena.

The Blackhawks snapped an eight-game losing streak last week with a 6-3 win over Pittsburgh, but have since lost each of their last two games — a 4-3 OT loss to Winnipeg on Friday and a 7-3 defeat on Sunday to San Jose. They have won just four times in their past 25 games (4-17-4) and are 4-13-3 under Jeremy Colliton.

Entering last week’s game against the Penguins, the Blackhawks had allowed the first goal of the game in 11 straight. Since then, they’ve tallied the first goal in two of their last three games. Chicago actually jumped out to a 2-0 lead against the Sharks and led 3-2 after the first period. But San Jose scored five unanswered goals from there.

When they do score the first goal of the game, Chicago is 8-2-4. When they allow the first goal of the game, they are 2-17-2.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Nashville Predators at Chicago Blackhawks
Where: United Center
When: Tuesday, Dec. 18, 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Predators-Blackhawks stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

PREDATORS
Ryan HartmanRyan JohansenKevin Fiala
Calle JarnkrokKyle TurrisCraig Smith
Colton SissonsNick BoninoAustin Watson
Miikka SalomakiFrederick Gaudreau – Rocco Grimaldi

Roman JosiRyan Ellis
Dan HamhuisMattias Ekholm
Matt IrwinYannick Weber

Starting goalie: Pekka Rinne

BLACKHAWKS
Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsDominik Kahun
Dylan StromeArtem AnisimovPatrick Kane
Alex DeBrincatDavid Kampf – Dylan Sikura
John HaydenMarcus KrugerBrendan Perlini

Duncan KeithErik Gustafsson
Gustav ForslingBrent Seabrook
Carl Dahlstrom – Connor Murphy

Starting goalie: Cam Ward

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith takes out frustrations, gets ejected

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Duncan Keith had a very short, but very eventful, Saturday night for the Chicago Blackhawks.

He was ejected and assessed 27 penalty minutes in the first period of their game in Nashville after taking out a lot of frustration on the Predators and anyone else that happened to get in his way.

Maybe it was the fact his team was already trailing by three goals in the first 10 minutes, or because he had just been hit from behind and driven in to the boards by Miikka Salomaki.

Most likely it was a combination of the two, but it all resulted in this mini-brawl that also featured an undercard of Alex DeBrincat vs. Matt Irwin.

The result of that exchange was Keith being assessed a two-minute minor for roughing, five minutes for fighting, a 10-minute misconduct, and a game misconduct.

He only played four minutes before he was ejected.

DeBrincat and Irwin were both given five-minute majors for fighting, while Salomaki was not penalized for the initial hit that angered Keith.

All of that put together gave Nashville a seven-minute power play. Chicago did get a shorthanded goal from Brandon Saad to cut the deficit to two, but Craig Smith responded with a power play goal to help Nashville regain its three-goal lead before the end of the period.

Entering play on Saturday the Blackhawks were just 3-6-2 since firing coach Joel Quenneville. The previous two games — losses to the Vegas Golden Knights and Winnipeg Jets — were especially ugly. This one did not get off to a much better start.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.