Predators host Blackhawks clinging to last playoff spot

By Nicolino DiBenedetto
Stats Writer

Chicago (43-24-11) at Nashville (39-32-8), 8:00 p.m. EDT

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) — Heading into their final three
games of the regular season, the Nashville Predators are in the
thick of the Western Conference playoff race. They also have
their captain back and apparently at full strength.

Jason Arnott and the Predators look to improve their postseason
chances Tuesday night when they host the Chicago Blackhawks, who
recently qualified for the playoffs.

Nashville is eighth in the Western Conference and tied with St.
Louis at 89 points, although the Predators hold the tiebreaker
with one more victory. Both clubs are two points behind
seventh-place Anaheim, though the Preds and Blues have a game in
hand on the Ducks.

The Predators are playing their final home game before visiting
Detroit on Thursday and Minnesota – another playoff hopeful –
the following night to close out the regular season.

If Arnott produces like he did in his first game back after
missing 11 games with a concussion, Nashville should have a good
chance at making the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season.

The center had two goals and an assist to lead the Predators to
a 5-4 shootout win over Columbus on Saturday. The performance
came a day after Arnott watched his teammates fall 3-1 at

“I was looking at the faces of the guys on the team and they
looked pretty tired,” Arnott said. “They have been through a

“I was pretty determined to play. I talked it over with my wife
and she kind of hinted against it. But I wanted to get back and
help the team as much as I can.”

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Despite the lengthy absence, Arnott leads Nashville with 29
goals and is second on the team with 52 points.

He has a goal and two assists in his three games against the
Blackhawks (43-24-11) this season with the Predators winning
each of them. They lost the other two matchups of the season
without him.

Arnott has four goals and two assists in the last six meetings
with the Blackhawks at Sommet Center, helping the Preds win four
of them.

The Blackhawks clinched their first postseason berth since 2002
by beating Nashville 3-1 on Friday. They’re fourth in the
conference and looking to extend their win streak to four after
Sunday’s 1-0 victory at Columbus, which snapped a season-high
five-game road losing streak.

Kris Versteeg scored the lone goal, matching his output from the
previous 10 games.

The 22-year-old left wing ranks second among rookies with 51
points and third with 22 goals – four short-handed – making him
a contender for the Calder Trophy, which was won by the Hawks’
Patrick Kane last season. Versteeg, however, has one point in
six games against Nashville.

Chicago hopes Patrick Sharp can return soon after he missed
Sunday’s game with a knee injury suffered in the first period
against the Preds. The right wing, listed as day-to-day, is
second on the club with 26 goals.

Sharp sat out 16 games due to a left knee injury from Feb.
17-March 22. He’s been held without a point in the last three
matchups with Nashville.