Predators-Blackhawks Preview

The Chicago Blackhawks are piling up the goals. The re-emergence of one of their top offensive threats should only make things worse for opponents.

After breaking out of the longest slump of his career, Marian Hossa looks to help the Blackhawks to their eighth consecutive win when the Nashville Predators visit the United Center on Tuesday night.

Hossa hadn't scored in 14 games entering Sunday's 6-3 victory over Colorado, but he tallied two of the Blackhawks' four second-period goals. That helped Chicago (27-13-4) inch within four points of Central Division-leading Dallas.

Hossa had never gone longer without a goal in his 18-year career.

''When I was younger, I tried to do a little too much,'' Hossa said. ''I've learned over those years, if the puck doesn't go in, try to use your instincts, stay positive. Eventually it's going to go in.''

That's been happening consistently for Chicago even with an ineffective Hossa. The Blackhawks have averaged 4.14 goals during their season-high winning streak that started Dec. 29 - highest in the league in that span.

Patrick Kane has four goals and eight assists during the run and followed a rare pointless game by scoring twice Sunday. Jonathan Toews scored his fifth goal of the streak and added his third and fourth assists.

''It seems like we're trending in the right direction,'' said Kane, who scored his NHL-leading 13th power-play goal. ''Keep building off this level we're at right now.''

The Blackhawks look to go 4-0 on their homestand before playing nine of 11 on the road. They're 18-5-1 and have won four straight at the United Center.

Corey Crawford is expected to be in net to try for his sixth straight victory. He's posted a 1.48 goals-against average in his last four games.

Crawford has won his last three starts against the Predators, including a 36-save performance in a 4-1 win Dec. 8.

Pekka Rinne suffered the loss in that one, but made 35 saves in a 5-1 win over the Blackhawks two days later.

Nashville (19-16-7) has gone 4-7-2 since that victory and suffered its third straight loss and fifth shutout of the season Saturday, 4-0 at Arizona.

The Predators, 1-5-1 in their last seven away from home, are tied at the bottom of the NHL with Edmonton and New Jersey with 1.40 goals per game since Dec. 31.

''Is there a concern in the last three to five games? Yeah, there is,'' coach Peter Laviolette said. ''We've got to be better and there's no excuse. We've got to start playing well enough to win games, not just playing games.''

The Predators ended a three-game skid in the series with the Dec. 10 victory.

Kane scored in each of this season's first two matchups to give him 19 regular-season goals versus Nashville - his highest total against any opponent.

Nashville's Eric Nystrom also scored in both games while James Neal had two goals Dec. 10. Neal has recorded three multigoal games in his last five against Chicago, totaling seven goals, and has 14 goals in 20 career meetings.


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