With playoffs starting, Blackhawks eye another big run
CHICAGO (AP) — As far as Marian Hossa is concerned, the Chicago Blackhawks can capture another Stanley Cup.
He envisions them putting aside their recent slump and making another big playoff run, starting with their first-round matchup against the Nashville Predators.
“No doubt about it,” Hossa said. “We have a good group of guys. Every round is going to be different. We have to focus on the first one. The first ones are rarely easy. Every team has added energy.”
Game 1 is Wednesday at Nashville, and both teams come in looking to put aside recent skids.
The Predators, third in the Western Conference with 104 points, were 0-4-2 in their last six games of the regular season.
“They are a very good team,” Hossa said after Saturday’s 3-2 loss at Colorado. “They played very consistently the whole season. They have great balance. Play well defensively. They will provide a good challenge for us.”
The Blackhawks (102 points) ended an up-and-down regular season on a four-game losing streak, but they are in the playoffs for the seventh straight year, eyeing another deep run.
They won the Stanley Cup in 2010 and 2013 and reached the conference finals last year. And if they get Patrick Kane back, it would obviously be a huge boost.
The dynamic forward was leading the Blackhawks with 27 goals and 37 assists when he lost his balance and crashed into the boards after being cross-checked by Florida defenseman Alex Petrovic on Feb. 24.
Kane had surgery the next day, with team physician Dr. Michael Terry saying a full recovery would take about 12 weeks. But he has been skating and working on one-timers and slap shots the past few weeks.
Whether he comes back or not, the Blackhawks have some work to do before they take to the ice against the Predators.
They’ve struggled on the power play, going 0 for 11 the past six games. That’s a trend they need to reverse, with or without Kane.
So is this: Chicago scored just five goals over the final four regular-season games.
“It’s not going to be easy playing against Nashville,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “We’ll have to find a way to get people in front of the net and get more shots and enough rebounds.”
The Blackhawks took three of four from the Predators during the regular season, beating them in overtime and a shootout. The teams have not met since Dec. 29, when Chicago won in a shootout.
One of the biggest challenges facing the Blackhawks in this series will be the man in goal for Nashville, the 6-foot-5 Pekka Rinne. He was a big reason why the Predators led the Central Division for much of the season before fading and ranked among the league leaders in wins (41), save percentage (.923) and goals-against average (2.18).
He sat out Saturday’s 4-1 loss at Dallas, as did forward Mike Fisher and defensemen Shea Weber and Roman Josi and Cody Franson.
“They had a great start to the season,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “They’ve got a tremendous back end, strong in net, they have some assets up front. So certainly they’re dangerous in a lot of ways.”
NOTES: The Blackhawks recalled goalie Antti Raanta and defenseman Kyle Cumiskey from the American Hockey League on Sunday. Raanta is 7-4-1 with a .936 save percentage in 14 games for the Blackhawks this season. Cumiskey has played in seven games with Chicago.