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Predators-Blackhawks Preview

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The Chicago Blackhawks played a stinker during their only game over the last week and return to an indoor venue now in second place in the Central Division.

That's still a cushy playoff position compared to Nashville.

The Predators might be without defenseman Shea Weber as they try to complete a perfect three-game road trip and avoid dropping four of the season's five meetings with Chicago on Thursday night.

The Blackhawks (38-19-5) were off for three days before Sunday's Stadium Series matchup at Minnesota, then allowed the first five goals in a 6-1 defeat. They haven't played since, and Dallas jumped back on top of the Central by a point with a win Tuesday.

Third-place St. Louis has pulled to within two of Chicago by taking four out of six points over the last week. The Blackhawks finished third in the division last season and went on to win the Stanley Cup, so the focus is on themselves at this point.

Chicago has gone 2-3-1 since Feb. 9.

"We can't overlook any team or any game at this point," goaltender Corey Crawford said. "Playoffs can't really be in our mind right now."

Crawford was pulled before the third period against the Wild after giving up four goals and before Patrick Kane scored for his NHL-leading 84th point. He's been in net for all three wins against the Predators (29-21-11) this season while posting a 1.33 goals-against average.

Crawford made 38 saves in a 4-1 victory in the last meeting Jan. 19 that capped the Blackhawks' franchise-record 12-game winning streak, as Kane had a goal and an assist.

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Nashville's best chance for a playoff berth is to secure a wild-card spot, and it sits seventh in the West, narrowly ahead of Colorado.

"It's always tough games against them," Crawford said. "They can be dangerous. We have to be ready for that team. They're battling for a playoff spot and we want to keep moving up."

The Predators have earned at least a point in seven straight to help their playoff chances and picked up two in each contest of this road trip, beating Montreal 2-1 in a shootout Monday before a 3-2 win over Toronto the following night.

Filip Forsberg registered the first regular-season hat trick of his career against the Maple Leafs after having one in last year's first-round playoff loss to Chicago. Linemates Craig Smith and Mike Ribeiro each had an assist.

"Me and (Ribeiro and Smith) have really connected lately and are just playing really good hockey," said Forsberg, who has nine goals and three assists over his last nine and has scored twice against Chicago this season. "We're spending a lot of time in the offensive zone and that helps a lot."

Weber missed his first game of the season with a lower-body injury, though, and is considered day to day. Roman Josi instead paired with Ryan Ellis, and they'll likely be together again if Weber can't go.

"In this league, you just have to collect points somehow," Josi said. "You want to win every game, but even if you find a way to get one point in some games, it's a good thing.

"It's going to be a tough one against Chicago, one of the best teams in the league. Hopefully, we can get another win."

Pekka Rinne has a 0.97 GAA while going 2-0-1 in his last three starts and has a 2.54 GAA while starting all four against the Blackhawks this season.