Preds’ special teams struggling as Blackhawks visit


After allowing five power-play goals to the Dallas Stars on Friday, the Nashville Predators limited the damage to three such tallies on Sunday.

It was an improvement but still too much to overcome as the Predators lost on the road 3-2.

“We played well, but not well enough, and ‘well’ is not going to win a lot of games in this division,” defenseman Ryan Ellis said.

The Predators will try to reverse their recent fortunes and solve their special-teams’ woes when the Chicago Blackhawks visit Tuesday night in the first game of a back-to-back set.

Although Nashville added a power-play goal off the stick of leading scorer Filip Forsberg, cutting down on penalty-kill miscommunications and eliminating careless mistakes are top priorities early in the season.

“There’s certain things we have to get better at,” Predators coach John Hynes said. “Our special teams, again, it’s the difference in the game, so that has to be a focus coming in. I think we just have to evaluate certain parts of our game, go back to the video and look at what it is, and then I think the other one is just player impact — what players are or are not making impacts in the game.”

Coming off a weekend sweep of the Detroit Red Wings, the Blackhawks don’t require much evaluation to see rookie Pius Suter is emerging as a playmaker.

Suter notched a hat trick in Sunday’s 6-2 home win to become the second Chicago player, and first since 1933, to score his first three career goals in the same game.

“I was pumped up,” Suter said. “I was excited, ’cause you know what the next one’s going to mean. Just kind of happy it worked out. You got the chance and put it in. Just really happy. Also, to kind of put the game away, as well.”

While veterans like Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith continue to make their marks for the Blackhawks, the team is also leaning on a number of younger players this season.

The MVP of National League A of Switzerland in 2019-20, supplanting now-Chicago teammate Dominik Kubalik from the previous season, Suter shined for the ZSC Lions with 30 goals and 53 points in 50 games.

His blend of aggressiveness and savvy were on display Sunday, and the Blackhawks hope that doesn’t change, both in Nashville this week and moving forward.

“He’s crafty,” teammate Connor Murphy said. “As a centerman, what sticks out are the guys that can separate and make plays, have that intelligence and the ability to read the ice and read the play and kind of control the way that the rushes are sorting out. He showed that (Sunday), and he had that awareness to get pucks by guys on the rush, or even around the net, that’s tough to get it through.

“That’s important and it’s impressive to see just starting out in the NHL. Definitely, we’re lucky to have him.”

Following games Tuesday and Wednesday, the teams are not set to meet again until the Predators visit Chicago on March 27-28.

–Field Level Media


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