13 shots not enough for Preds to right the ship…

In a statement not always heard, the Nashville Predators were thankful they played on back-to-back nights.

It means they didn’t have to think about the embarrassing loss in Dallas too long.

Despite looking like a completely different hockey team than the past two games, the Predators fell to the visiting Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 on Thursday night.

13,103 fans inside the Sommet Center witnessed a much better hockey club than the one they saw in the same building on Monday against Edmonton or the one they saw on TV on Wednesday when they “played” Dallas.

With the three goals relented against Chicago, the Predators have now allowed 15 goals in their last three games. And while there’s plenty of blame to go around, defensemen Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Klein seem to be the focal point of the collapse.

Of the 15 goals allowed, either Hamhuis or Klein have been on the ice for 10 of them. And both players have been on the ice together for seven.

For contrast, Francis Bouillon has only been on the ice for two of the 15 opposition’s goals this week and rookie Teemu Laakso has only been present for three.

The Predators really need to get it together. The defensive pairing of Hamhuis and Klein is standing out like a sore thumb, the coaching staff is scratching the few players that are hustling and leaving it all out there on every shift and the offense is sputtering.

Martin Erat became the first non-top liner to score for the Preds this season when he was credited with a goal during the second period. The puck actually went off Niklas Hjalmarsson‘s skate, went between the legs of Cristobal Huet and in the net. On a soccer score sheet it would read as an “own goal” so, for all intents and purposes, the top line of Jason Arnott, JP Dumont, Patric Hornqvist and Steve Sullivan are still the only forwards to score for Nashville.

Head Coach Barry Trotz opted for some interesting line combinations against Chicago. Dumont returned to the lineup so, in no surprise to anybody, the top line was reunited while Hornqvist was sent to the 2nd line, skating with David Legwand and Cal O’Reilly. Erat was moved down to the 3rd line in order to skate with Joel Ward and rookie Colin Wilson while Jerred Smithson centered the 4th line with Marcel Goc and Ryan Jones.

The workhorse Ben Guite and the tough guy Wade Belak were scratched.

Those four lines seem to be the strongest line combinations for the Predators in the young season. All lines had flashes of offense and, once again, Wilson and Ward showed that it’s only a matter of time before they put a few in the back of the net. That two-some is really clicking and developing some early chemistry.

So while Nashville extended their slide to four games, and only amassed 13 shots on goal, they showed a sense of heart and resiliency that fans haven’t seen in the previous two contests, which is a good sign considering they’re about to go play the fighting Ovechkin’s in Washington.

If they don’t have their act together against that team on Saturday, things could get real ugly, real fast and we’re bound to see another 6-0 or 6-1 debacle.

Or worse.

 

GAME NOTES:
* Registering a minus-2 against the Blackhawks, Hamhuis now has a team-low minus-7 rating.
* Both Hamhuis and Klein were on the ice for all three Chicago goals.
* Goaltender Pekka Rinne made 27 saves on 30 shots. It marked the first time a Predators goaltender has survived the first period since Monday against Edmonton.
* Ryan Suter collected his third assist of the season while Shea Weber earned his second.
* Dumont, in his first game back after recovering from what the team won’t call a concussion, logged 16:51 of ice time, registered one shot and seemed to be easing himself back to full strength.
* Goc led the Predators with three shots on goal. No other Nashville skater had more than one.
* In a relatively expected move, Mike Santorelli was reassigned to Milwaukee before the game and O’Reilly was recalled.
* This was the first time in what will be their long NHL careers that both O’Reilly brothers played on the same night. While Cal played his first game of the season in Nashville, his brother Ryan O’Reilly netted his first NHL goal in Montreal. It ended up being the game-winner for Colorado.
* The Predators will play their next five games on the road. The next home game is Thursday, October 29 against these same Chicago Blackhawks.
* The next 303:30 podcast will be available right here at section303.com this Saturday, October 17, just in time for your pre-game listening pleasure when the Predators travel to Washington to take on the Capitals.