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PREVIEW: Nashville Predators streak into Chicago looking to beat Blackhawks

Jan 27, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators center Matt Duchene (95) scores the eventual game winner on a shootout shot past Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Kevin Lankinen (32) at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 27, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators center Matt Duchene (95) scores the eventual game winner on a shootout shot past Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Kevin Lankinen (32) at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Nashville Predators will try to stay perfect against the host Chicago Blackhawks this season when the teams face off Saturday night.

Nashville is 2-0 against the rival Blackhawks, with both victories coming in dramatic fashion. The Predators posted a 3-2 overtime win Jan. 26 and a 2-1 shootout win the following night, with both of those games in Nashville.

Now the teams meet in Chicago for another set of back-to-back contests.

The Predators have won three in a row and five of their past six games.

“We have a good thing going right now,” Predators coach John Hynes said. “We have a group of players that really enjoys playing with each other and for each other. We’re playing some really strong hockey.”

Chicago also is playing well after posting back-to-back home wins over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday and Thursday. The Blackhawks won the first contest 3-2 and the second game 3-0.

Rookie goaltender Kevin Lankinen stopped all 41 shots he faced in the Blackhawks’ most recent victory. It was his second shutout and improved his record to 12-7-4 with a 2.71 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage.

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Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton praised Lankinen, who emerged early in the season to seize the No. 1 role in net.

“He’s been really solid, under control,” Colliton said. “He’s made some big saves, but he’s looked comfortable in there, even on the routine saves. He’s been working hard, and hopefully this is a real confidence builder.”

Lankinen’s primary backup is Malcolm Subban, who is 4-4-1 with a 3.14 GAA and .903 save percentage.

Nashville’s top-performing netminder has been Juuse Saros, who is 8-6-0 with a 2.48 GAA and .920 save percentage in 17 games (16 starts). The Predators also could turn to skilled veteran Pekka Rinne, who is 8-11-1 with a 3.07 GAA and .899 save percentage in 21 games (18 starts).

On offense, Patrick Kane leads Chicago with 46 points (13 goals, 33 assists) in 34 games. Kane recently was recognized by the team for playing in his 1,000th career game.

Alex DeBrincat ranks second on the Blackhawks with 33 points (team-high 16 goals with 17 assists) in 30 games. Dominik Kubalik also is a threat to score with 26 points (11 goals, 15 assists) in 34 contests.

Nashville’s top scorer is Filip Forsberg, who has 29 points (11 goals, 18 assists) in 34 games. Roman Josi is next with 19 points (two goals, 17 assists) in 27 games from his spot on the blue line, and Calle Jarnkrok has 15 points (nine goals, six assists) in 28 games.

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Chicago is 9-4-2 on home ice this season. Nashville is 7-10-1 on the road.

The Blackhawks know that each win bolsters their chances of reaching the playoffs, but Colliton has not emphasized the subject heading into April.

“I’m not sure how often I’m bringing it up,” Colliton said. “I’m sure we do talk about it. It’s more talking about how each game is important and we’ve got to have the proper urgency with our preparation and how we approach it.”

–Field Level Media