The Nashville Predators have quietly climbed in the standings, and continue to do so, as they defeated a division opponent, the Chicago Blackhawks, 3-1. The win jumps Nashville over Chicago in the Central and moves them up to fifth in the Western Conference -- one point behind the St. Louis Blues.
This was the first game without Jonathan Toews for Chicago, so they had to juggle the lines to adjust. To start, Dave Bolland took over Toews spot on the first line, and centered Viktor Stalberg and Patrick Kane. However, once the Predators started to take control of the game and tacked on two goals from Craig Smith and Mike Fisher, it was tough for the Blackhawks to match the pace. The Blackhawks tried re-shuffling the lines, putting Kane, who has only scored four points in his last 10 games, at center at the onset of the second period, but it didn't do much to help bolster quality chances.
At 7:20, Bolland scored on the power play to bring the deficit to one goal, but the way the Preds play, being down by one goal can feel like a three-goal deficit. As desperation set in for Chicago, they earned a few more power play opportunities, but Pekka Rinne continued to stand tall, along with help from his defense, who blocked a total of 24 shots this game.
The Blackhawks lost any chance of rallying to tie after being whistled for a too many men penalty and Colin Wilson put the icing on the lead with 13 seconds to go with an empty-netter, pushing the Preds to a 3-1 victory.
With the stretch of wins the Predators have been riding, Nashville might want to hold on to some of those players they were thinking about selling at the deadline. They might be buyers at this point.