(Sports Network) - The Chicago Blackhawks will try to move closer to claiming
their first Presidents' Trophy in over two decades when they host the free-
falling Nashville Predators in Friday's clash at United Center.
With 70 points, the Blackhawks already have clinched the Central Division
title as well as the top seed in the West. That leaves the NHL's best record
as the only race left for Chicago, which is four points ahead of Pittsburgh in
the battle for the Presidents' Trophy.
The Blackhawks, who last had the NHL's best record during the 1990-91
campaign, have six games left in the regular season compared to five for
Pittsburgh. The Penguins play Friday night in Boston.
Chicago has won its last six games and will try to push that winning streak to
seven against a Nashville team that is playing for pride. The Predators have
lost seven straight in regulation and have been officially eliminated from
playoff contention, marking the first time the club will miss the postseason
Nashville shouldn't count on things getting any better tonight, considering
the Predators are 0-3-1 against the Blackhawks this season and have lost five
straight in the series. Chicago has taken five of the last seven meetings in
the Windy City. Friday's contest is the fourth meeting between the clubs this
month and the final encounter of the season.
Chicago's latest victory came Monday against the visiting Dallas Stars, who
had won five in a row before getting dealt a 5-2 setback at the United Center.
Andrew Shaw broke a tie with one of Chicago's three third-period goals and
Marian Hossa sealed the club's sixth straight victory with an empty-net tally
in the final minute. Hossa also added two assists.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews had a goal and a helper, while Ray Emery
improved to 16-1-0 this season with a 16-save effort. The win kicked off a
three-game homestand for Chicago and improved the team's home record this
season to 16-3-2.
"You kind of feed off of the energy of the guys around you, and every night
it's different guys," Emery said of his strong play. "Lately it's been a
consistent effort by most guys on the ice. It's really exciting being a part
of that and gearing up for the playoffs."
Emery won't be available for the Blackhawks on Friday, as he's dealing with a
lower body injury. Chicago recalled Carter Hutton from its AHL affiliate in
Rockford to fill in Emery's roster spot, but Corey Crawford is expected to get
the start tonight.
Meanwhile, Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp will miss a third straight game
with an upper body injury.
Nashville's current 0-7 slide ties the longest losing streak in team history.
The club also has lost seven straight on the road and is 5-12-4 as the
visiting team this season. The Preds' last win away from the Music City came
on March 12 in Dallas.
The Predators were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention after
losing Monday's 5-2 decision against visiting Vancouver. Jason Garrison scored
the game-winner late in the second period before the Canucks cruised to
victory in the final 20 minutes.
Nick Spaling and Bobby Butler netted the Nashville goals, while Pekka Rinne
surrendered all five goals on 24 shots for the Predators.
"We still have to play hard," Nashville captain Shea Weber said. "It's
obviously tough. We have to find a way to battle here in the last games and
try to get some wins."
Three of Nashville's final four games of the season are on the road. Next up
for the Predators is Tuesday's home finale against Calgary.
The Sports Network