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Blackhawks looking for revenge vs. Predators

CHICAGO -- The Nashville Predators ended the Chicago Blackhawks' championship hopes in swift fashion last season with a four-game sweep in the Western Conference quarterfinal series.

On Saturday night, the host Blackhawks will seek a small morsel of revenge against the Predators when the teams meet each other for the first of four regular-season meetings.

Chicago (3-1-1) jumped to an impressive start with 23 goals in its first five games. The Blackhawks are coming off their first loss of the season and hope to avoid back-to-back defeats against division rivals.

Nashville (2-2-0) is looking for its third win in a row after knocking off the Philadelphia Flyers and Dallas Stars earlier in the week. However, the Predators have yet to win on the road this season (0-2-0).

Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne said he and his teammates felt strong after posting their first two victories.

"It's a good confidence booster," Rinne said. "You can take a breather and get back on the right track. We are .500 right now, and we're building up more solid games together. That's our goal, to improve every game.

"The big word has been consistency from the past couple of years, and that's what we've really tried to improve and really tried to focus on. Now, we're going to Chicago next, and it will be a good challenge for us."

The Blackhawks are led in scoring by left winger Ryan Hartman, who has eight points (two goals, six assists) in his first five games. Right behind Hartman on the scoring list are Brandon Saad (five goals, two assists) and Patrick Kane (two goals, five assists) with seven points apiece.

Chicago could receive another boost if center Nick Schmaltz is able to return from an upper-body injury. Schmaltz missed the past three games but hopes to return against the Predators.

"He's got a lot of speed," Hartman said. "It makes the defense kind of second guess and have to back in a little bit. It gives the wingers some extra time, and it gives us a net drive. ...

"He's definitely a key part to this team and to our success. We're looking forward to having him back soon."

Rinne started in net for both Predators' victories this week and could earn the nod again vs. Chicago. Rinne is 2-1-0 with a 3.09 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage this season. In 38 career games against the Blackhawks, he is 17-16-4 with a 2.51 GAA and a .917 save percentage.

If Rinne receives a night off, talented backup Juuse Saros could make his second start of the season. He is 0-1 with a 4.00 ERA and a .882 save percentage after a rocky season debut against the Penguins. He has faced the Blackhawks once in his career (0-1-0, 4.02 GAA, .875 save percentage).

Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford is likely to start for Chicago with a three-day break looming after Saturday's contest. Crawford is 3-1-0 with a sparkling 1.50 GAA and .956 save percentage to start the season. In 25 career games against Nashville, he is 15-9-1 with a 2.52 GAA and .913 save percentage.

Nashville is led in scoring by left winger Filip Forsberg (four goals, two assists) and defenseman P.K. Subban (one goal, five assists). Defenseman Yannick Weber's status for the game is uncertain after he absorbed a punishing head shot from Martin Hanzal of the Dallas Stars on Thursday night.
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