The Chicago Blackhawks may have won four straight, but the defending Stanley Cup champions hardly are content to stand pat. Kris Versteeg, a member of Chicago’s 2010 Stanley Cup squad, will be in the lineup against the host Nashville Predators on Saturday after being acquired from Florida on Thursday. “Looking at our team, we thought about adding one more versatile forward to our group,” Chicago general manager Stan Bowman said. “He’s got a great skill level to complement our players.”
What started out as a promising seven-game road trip ended with a whimper for the Predators, who dropped the final four contests of the marathon 17-day trek. Nashville has been outscored 17-2 during its four-game skid and now must deal with a red-hot Blackhawks club that is 7-0-1 in its last eight games. “It’s always tough to come off a long roadie, but obviously we’re all looking forward to getting home,” Predators center Mike Fisher said. “That’s the longest trip I’ve ever had.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, CSN (Chicago), FSN Tennessee (Nashville)
ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (13-2-4): With Chicago facing a schedule the features nine games in the next two weeks, backup goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin will be in net against the Predators - his first start since Oct. 29. Khabibulin had made only three starts, giving up six goals in one before allowing four in 1 1/2 periods in his last outing. “For goalies, every start is a big start,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It’s been a while since he’s played. Hopefully he can get in there, do his thing and feel comfortable.”
ABOUT THE PREDATORS (8-9-2): The Blackhawks will see a pair of familiar faces in Nashville’s lineup in forward Viktor Stalberg and goaltender Carter Hutton. Stalberg spent the last three seasons with Chicago before signing a four-year, $12 million contract in the offseason, and Hutton has inherited the No. 1 netminder role while Pekka Rinne recovers from a bacterial infection following surgery. Hutton, whose only NHL start prior to joining Nashville came with Chicago last season, has allowed 24 goals in his last six starts.
1. The Blackhawks have won six straight against Nashville, including all five meetings last season.
2. Predators C David Legwand has 21 goals and 37 assists in 68 games versus Chicago.
3. Versteeg had back-to-back 20-goal seasons with the Blackhawks and scored a career-high 23 with Florida in 2011.
PREDICTION: Blackhawks 4, Predators 2