Blackhawks are back vs. Nashville, but have a hole in net

Blackhawks

As the Chicago Blackhawks return from a lengthy respite due to a COVID outbreak, now they have to wonder who will be in net for a pair of weekend games.

With No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in protocol since Dec. 27, backup Kevin Lankinen joined him Friday, which means interim coach Derek King will likely turn to the tandem of Collin Delia and Arvid Soderblom for games on consecutive days — Saturday at the Nashville Predators and at home against the Calgary Flames on Sunday.

“I’m just really looking forward to the opportunity,” Delia said. “I’m not sure how long it is, but I’ll just take it day by day and seeing what change I can effect in my game and how I can help the team.”

Delia had a strong stint for the Blackhawks in the second half of the 2018-19 season but hasn’t been able to grab a big-league spot since. With AHL Rockford this season, he’s posted a 4-4-1 record with a 2.86 goals-against average and .907 save percentage.

Soderblom, 22, has posted a 4-5-0 record for Rockford with a 3.15 average and .915 save percentage, and is looking for his NHL debut.

Regardless of the player between the pipes, the Blackhawks are hoping to turn their fortunes. They managed just one win in their last four outings (although their last two were overtime losses) before having four games postponed.

Hurting their cause has been the penalty kill, which has surrendered 13 goals on 33 opportunities, a dismal 61.6 percent kill rate, in the last 11 games. The Blackhawks have allowed eight power-play goals against in the last 19 short-handed situations — three of them in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars in their most recent outing on Dec. 18.

King said among the problems has been surrendering the defensive zone too easily by not pressuring farther up the ice.

“We really just wanted to focus on simplifying this PK, breaking it down for them again,” King said. “And we’ll just keep on working on it.”

The Predators return home after blowing a 3-2 third-period lead Thursday in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The previous night, they fell to the Washington Capitals, 5-3 in their return to action after an 11-day hiatus.

Even so, the Predators are riding a 7-1-1 run and doing their best to remain upbeat.

“We did a lot of really good things,” coach John Hynes said. “I commend our guys’ effort, the intensity in a back-to-back. I really liked our team, loved their competitiveness, liked the way we played. When you talk about identity … by probably every statistical measure, we certainly deserved to win. We didn’t find a way to do it.”

Those feelings were echoed by the players.

“I think our competitiveness and passion, we’ve been doing a really good job there,” forward Mikael Granlund said. “There’s some details we need to be better at — not let the other team get (easy chances) — but the game is there.

“The boys are really going hard, playing hard for each other, and that’s a sign of a good team. So, we’ve just got to keep doing that and get better in some details and try to get those wins again. Obviously one out of four (points) is just not good enough for us, but now we have the next one coming up Saturday.”

The Predators could receive a boost for the game, as captain Roman Josi and centers Thomas Novak and Colton Sissons and are all on the verge of returning to action from COVID protocol.

–Field Level Media

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