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Preview: Predators at Blackhawks (G1: 4/16)

Location: United Center (Chicago, Illinois)

Game Time: 7:30 pm Central

TV: FSN, Versus

Radio: 104.5 The Zone (WGFX-FM)

Nashville: 47-29-6 (100)
Chicago: 52-22-8 (112)

Season Series:
10/15/09 – CHI 3 – NSH 1
10/24/09 – NSH 0 – CHI 2
10/29/09 – CHI 0 – NSH 2
12/4/09 – NSH 4 – CHI 1
12/26/09 – CHI 4 – NSH 1
12/27/09 –  NSH 4 – CHI 5

A New Opponent: Friday will mark the start of the fifth playoff series in franchise history. The only two opponents the Preds have seen in the playoffs prior to this year were the Red Wings in 2004 and 2008 and the Sharks in 2006 and 2007. Chicago marks the third opponent in franchise history, but also marks the third time in five appearances that Nashville will be facing an opponent from their own division. The Predators have never won a playoff series.

Long Time No See: In an extremely rare bit of scheduling, the Predators have not seen the Blackhawks – their division opponent – since last December. Thus, you can pretty much completely throw out anything you know about the two teams based on their matchup from earlier this season.

All Time Series: The Predators and the Blackhawks have met 69 times since the Predators came into the league. The Preds’ all time record is a practically dead even 31-31-3-4. In fact, until last season, the Predators held a slight advantage over the Hawks in their all time series. All of that has changed, however, with the Blackhawks taking 12 of the last 20 against Nashville.

Playoff Road Woes: Almost as well documented as the Predators’ inability to get out of the first round of the playoffs is their inability to win on the road. In 10 road games in franchise playoff history, the Predators have won none. In those 10 games, the Predators have averaged just 1.5 goals per game. This season, however, the Predators tied their franchise record with 23 road wins, including 7 of their last 10. More impressively, the Predators had 92 even strength road goals, the second highest number in the league.

Game 1 History: With four playoff series under their belt, the Predators have obviously played four Game Ones. In these first games, the team has a record of 1-3, with the lone win a 4-3 triumph in 2006 at home against San Jose. Of the other 3 games, two were played on the road in Detroit and one was played at home against San Jose.  The first game of the 2007 series was the longest game in Predators franchise history, a four-hour double overtime thriller that ended with a Patrick Rissmiller goal at the 8:14 mark of the second overtime. Needless to say, the Predators have lost the first game played on the road during every series and have never managed more than one goal during that first road game.

Discipline: Much as been made of the Predators’ historically bad penalty kill, but the fact of the matter is that they are rarely needed.  The Predators ended the season with just 302 penalties for 698 minutes for an average of a miniscule 8.7. How low were these numbers? They didn’t just lead the league and they weren’t just franchise records – during this season, the Predators were the least penalized team in the NHL in the last 33 years. That’s right…you have to go all the way back to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1976-77 to find a team that was penalized less. In fact, the 8.7 PIMs per game was actually the 7th lowest in NHL history.

Blackhawks History: This series marks the start of the 54th playoffs in Blackhawks history, but only their third since the Predators entered the league. Since the playoffs changed to their current format, Chicago has made the playoffs 6 times, losing in the first round three times, in the second round once and in the Conference Finals 3 times. The last time Chicago made it to the Stanley Cup final was in 1992 (swept by the Penguins) and the last time they actually won Lord Stanley’s hardware was in 1960. They also won the Cup in 1934 and 1938, while finishing as the runner-up in 1931, 1944, 1962, 1965, 1971, and 1973.

Scheduling Oddity: Oddly, the Predators AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals are also playing a Chicago team in the first round. The Admirals are taking on Chris Chelios and the Chicago Wolves, the Thrashers’ affiliate. Both the Preds and the Ads have games in Chicago on Friday night.

Quick Notes: Several Predators will be making their NHL playoff debuts: Patric Hornqvist, Colin Wilson, Joel Ward, Pekka Rinne, Cal O’Reilly, Nick Spaling, Cody Franson, Denis Grebeshkov and Kevin Klein…Steve Sullivan played in 82 games for only the second time in his NHL career this season…Hobey Baker Award winner Blake Geoffrion appears to be joining the Admirals in time for their Game 2 on Friday night…The Official Cellblock 303 Game 1 Viewing Party will be held at Blackstone Brewery at 7:30 pm…For real-time tweets during the game, be sure to follow us at @cellblock303 and, to join in on the conversation, be sure to tweet along with us by following @PredFans.

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