Predators eye playoff push, visit last-place Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks and visiting Nashville Predators can get their minds back to playing hockey when they meet on Saturday night.
Both teams were very active in the days leading up to Friday's NHL trade deadline.
Though it was highly anticipated, the Blackhawks made the league's most high-profile move when they traded forward Patrick Kane, a nine-time All Star and three-time Stanley Cup Champion, to the New York Rangers on Tuesday.
Chicago made another big move on Thursday, sending leading scorer Max Domi and minor-league goaltender Dylan Wells to the Dallas Stars for goalie Anton Khudobin and a second-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft.
"You develop friendships with guys," Blackhawks defenseman Seth Jones said. "Kaner being here for 15, 16 years and (he's) done a lot of great things, and then 'Domes' came in and was a big part of our team, not only on the ice, but off the ice. Guys enjoyed being around him. So, you know, not just those two guys, but all the guys we've traded away. It's emotional for everyone."
Nashville jumped into the trade market early when they sent forward Tanner Jeannot to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday in exchange for defenseman Cal Foote, a former first-round pick of the Lightning, as well as five draft picks.
Nashville followed that by trading defenseman Mattias Ekholm to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday for defenseman Tyson Barrie, who made his team debut on Thursday in a 2-1 win at the Florida Panthers to open a six-game road trip.
The victory gave the Predators four wins in their past five games and kept them six points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but Nashville general manager David Poile had already made up his mind to make another deal.
On Friday, the Predators acquired right wing Rasmus Asplund from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a seventh-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft.
"We're right on the bubble here," Poile told NHL Network on Friday. "What was happening is we just can't get out of what I call this the mushy middle. ... We don't want to just make the playoffs, we want to compete for the Cup."
Nashville coach John Hynes said despite the distractions of the trade deadline, he likes the way his team is playing lately.
"We're playing with some swagger in our game," Hynes said. "Guys are making some plays, feeling confident with the puck. We are playing really fast. Throughout the lineup, the competitive level and the work ethic is at a standard you need to have a chance to win every night."
Nashville forward Luke Evangelista, a second-round pick in the 2020 draft, made his NHL debut on Tuesday against Pittsburgh and then notched the primary assist on a power-play goal by Matt Duchene in the win against Florida for his first NHL point.
The Blackhawks have lost three in a row, most recently 5-2 against the visiting Stars on Thursday.
Lukas Reichel, the 17th overall pick by Chicago in the 2020 NHL Draft, was recalled from AHL affiliate Rockford prior to the game against Dallas and had one shot on goal in 16:57 of ice time.
It was his 16th NHL game after appearing in 11 for the Blackhawks last season.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 3, 2023