Predators vs. Blackhawks: Three Players to Watch in Game 4

Coming off of an impressive victory over the Nashville Predators on Sunday night, the Chicago Blackhawks will be looking to take a stranglehold on the series as they hit the ice for Game 4 in the best-of-seven series.

As the Blackhawks prepare to try for a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, we thought it would be good to take a look at a few of the players who will be key for Chicago as they look for their second consecutive win.

Niklas Hjalmarsson

Traditionally, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya draw the toughest assignments out of the Blackhawks’ defensive pairings, but that situation generally gets worse on home ice, and it did on Sunday as the pairing starting only four even strength possessions in the offensive zone.

The pair’s possession numbers certainly indicated that they had a tough time in the game, as Hjalmarsson was a team-worst minus-8 Corsi and a minus-7 Fenwick in the game. They did generate plenty of scoring opportunities despite limited chances in the offensive zone, but they also allowed a slew of chances when facing some tough opponents as well.

In order for the Hawks to maintain their grasp on the series, Hjalmarsson will have to play a very disciplined game on Tuesday. He is the anchor for the defense while Duncan Keith is playing with the defensively-suspect Michal Rozsival, and he’ll have to live up to those expectations in this one.

Patrick Kane

While the Blackhawks’ top line came out of the gate firing early and often on Sunday in Chicago, Patrick Kane was noticeably absent from the proceedings. He only managed two shots on goal, and he was a minus-6 on the day in terms of his Corsi score.

Kane isn’t generally the type of player that has poor games twice in a row, so expect him to come out firing on Tuesday night. As series wear on he generally becomes more effective, and with the Predators likely dedicated more resources and energy to game-planning for the Blackhawks’ top line in this game, Kane and his teammates could be put in a position where they have a higher probability of success.

Patrick Sharp

Sharp has been one of the better forwards for the Blackhawks so far in this series, but the return to home ice wasn’t kind to him on Sunday as less favorable matchups and fewer offensive zone starts conspired to keep him off of the scoresheet and limited him to just two shots on goal in the contest.

In order for Sharp to be successful, the Blackhawks will have to get regular time on the power play in the game, and the Predators played a largely disciplined contest in Game 3. His third line teammates aren’t exactly stalwarts, but Brad Richards should be able to get him the puck in scoring areas more frequently now that the duo has had a bit of time to work together.

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