Daily Herald
Huet lead Blackhawks past Predators 4-1
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 12/26/2009 9:55 PM | Updated: 12/26/2009 11:23 PM

Tim Sassone's game tracker

Blackhawks 4, Predators 1

Three stars

1. Jonathan Toews, Hawks: The captain had 2 assists and did all the little things that lead to winning.

2. Patrick Kane, Hawks: Big second-period goal put the Hawks ahead to stay.

3. Tomas Kopecky, Hawks: Had 2 assists in only nine minutes but was noticeable all night.

Key stat

It was the 11th time this season in 28 games that Hawks goalie Cristobal Huet allowed 1 goal or none.

 

Nashville Predators at the United Center, 6 p.m.

TV: Channel 9

Radio: WGN 720-AM

What to watch: The Hawks now lead the Predators by 6 points in the Central Divsion thanks to Saturday's 4-1 win in Nashville. The Hawks played without defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and winger Kris Versteeg, who were "under the weather," according to coach Joel Quenneville. This is the final time the Hawks and Predators play this season.

Season series: The Hawks lead 3-2

Next: Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center, 7 p.m. Tuesday

- Tim Sassone

The Blackhawks appear serious about winning the Central Division.

Continuing a productive stretch that started with 2 shutout wins over Detroit, the Hawks turned in another defensive gem on the road Saturday night, beating Nashville 4-1 at the Sommet Center.

The Hawks' eighth victory in their last 10 games stretched their hold on first place in the division over the Predators to 6 points with the two teams set to meet again tonight at the United Center.

"It was an important game for us and I thought we responded," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We played a perfect road game, did a lot of things right."

A 3-goal explosion in the second period was the difference for the Hawks, who outshot the Predators 40-26.

It was 1-1 when Patrick Kane and Andrew Ladd scored 70 seconds apart midway through the second period. Patrick Sharp added a goal late in the period.

Hawks center Jonathan Toews had 2 assists and was the best player on the ice at both ends.

"We tried to keep it simple and got a couple rebound goals," Toews said.

Toews helped set up Dustin Byfuglien's power-play goal in the first period that opened the scoring.

After Martin Erat tied it with a goal early in the second period, Toews poked the puck past defenseman Ryan Suter at the Hawks' blue line to set up a 2-on-1 with Kane leading the way.

Kane held the puck and beat goalie Pekka Rinne with a hard wrist shot from the right side.

Just 70 seconds later, Ladd fired home a Tomas Kopecky rebound. Kopecky also assisted on Sharp goal with 1:13 left in the period in one of his best games of the season.

Cristobal Huet made 25 saves to run his record to 17-8-2. Huet has allowed 1 or no goals in 11 of his 28 games this season.

The Hawks' defense was so tight that Huet was never severely tested by the Predators.

"I thought we were responsible in all zones," Quenneville said. "We got to the net well and moved the puck well. Every line was contributing. I thought we were dangerous around the net."

The rematch tonight with the Predators gives the Hawks a chance to go 8 points up in the Central. The game concludes the season series between the two teams, and it's not even January.

"It's unusual that we're going to be playing our last game against them not even halfway through the season," Quenneville said. "We know it will be an important game for everybody involved. As we go along we still think there will be a ton of races on our side."

The Hawks played without Kris Versteeg and Niklas Hjalmarsson, both of whom were under the weather, according to Quenneville.

Cam Barker and Ben Eager returned from their injuries and were in the lineup with Bryan Bickell, recalled from Rockford.