(Photo credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)
If the Nashville Predators hope to crawl out of the Central Division basement before Thanksgiving, a good time to start would be Saturday afternoon against the visiting Chicago Blackhawks.
The Predators and Blackhawks are tied for the fewest points in the Central (10). Nashville sits in last place because it has played one more game than Chicago.
Only the San Jose Sharks have fewer points (seven) throughout the NHL.
Bringing up the rear has been a foreign experience for the Predators, who made the playoffs eight straight seasons before missing out by three points last season.
"We'll be better for it," Predators coach Andrew Brunette said of the slow start. "We're just in the mud right now, and it's self-inflicted mud."
The Predators have lost their past four games in regulation to keep them stuck on 10 points.
Nashville looked like it might turn the corner in its most recent game on Tuesday against the visiting Anaheim Ducks. The Predators took a 2-1 lead into the third period but wilted down the stretch and lost 3-2.
"It's hard sometimes to look at the positives right after a four-game losing streak, but there are some good things we did," Nashville captain Roman Josi said. "We've got to focus on those and find a way to correct the other things."
Nashville learned before the Anaheim game that forward Tommy Novak would be lost for 4-to-6 weeks because of an upper-body injury. Novak is third on the team in goals (six) and points (12).
The Predators had just welcomed back fellow center Cody Glass after he missed a month with a lower-body injury.
Nashville also eagerly awaits the return of top defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who has missed the past five games with a lower-body injury and has shown little progress in his recovery.
"It hasn't really improved," Brunette said. 'We're hoping soon, but we just can't seem to get any traction on getting better."
Chicago is coming off a difficult five-game stretch in which it faced the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers twice and another tough matchup against the New Jersey Devils.
The Blackhawks went 2-3-0 during that stretch, gaining valuable experience for their young players.
Chicago rookie center Connor Bedard, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, will make his first visit to Nashville with the Blackhawks. He has five goals and two assists in the past five games.
Chicago is also receiving solid production from 38-year-old winger Corey Perry, who scored his fourth goal of the season in a 4-2 loss to the Lightning on Thursday.
"I think you're going to have to kick him out of the league," Chicago coach Luke Richardson joked. "I don't think he'll ever leave willingly. He's not ready to go yet."
The Blackhawks are also expected to welcome back center Taylor Hall after he missed the past two games with a lower-body injury. He practiced on Wednesday and participated in Thursday's morning skate but did not take the ice against the Lightning.
The Blackhawks will look to improve their shot total as they registered a season-low 15 shots against the Lightning on Thursday. Bedard was credited with a single shot on goal.
--Field Level Media