The Nashville Predators beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 to improve their record against Central Division teams to 9-2-2 for the season.
Chicago was noticeably tired as they beat Florida 3-1 on Friday night and were delayed getting to Nashville due to the snowstorm that pummeled the Midwest.
There was a playoff-like atmosphere at Bridgestone Arena with a huge contingent of Chicago fans that were raucous before the game started with their traditional cheering during the national anthem .
Coach Barry Trotz appeared to enjoy the visitor's presence. "I don’t know if we came out with more intensity but the building was ramped up from the get go and that doesn’t hurt the home team. I know that. It means this is a good rivalry and Nashville is a great destination to come to."
The Predators had balanced scoring throughout the line up with five different goal scorers and six others contributing assists. The team also continued their success on the man-advantage going one for two on the power play.
Craig Smith got the scoring parade started at 17:19 in the opening period with a power play marker to tie the game 1-1. "We were moving the puck well and Ellis put the puck on net and I was fortunate to pick up the rebound. It's always good to score on the power play."
Smith claims that he was fully recovered from his illness earlier in the week that caused him to miss two game. " I was playing my game and felt good out there."
Trotz also commented on Smith's play at both ends of the ice and a change that is helping him cope with the transition from a college schedule to a full 82 game NHL schedule..
"I put him back at center and ramped his minutes backwards a bit. I think it has given him a little more freedom to not have to produce and without that pressure to have to produce he's producing more."
"He was getting on the forecheck. Anytime you are physical and fast on the forecheck you are going to create some turnovers and you get some quick support and you are going to get some offense out of it. He was using his assets and his assets are his speed and his quickness."
Pekka Rinne picked up his 25th win of the season, stopping 20 of 22 Chicago shots. Corey Crawford took the loss and gave up four goals on 17 shots before being replaced by Ray Emery with 3:57 left in the second period.
The Predators will have a return match with the Blackhawks in their building on Tuesday night. Smith did not feel there would be much carry-over from Saturday's victory. "It will be a totally different situation. They played last night and were tired. It will be different playing at their place."
The Predators will take Sunday off to rest and return to the ice at Bridgestone Arena on Monday against Columbus in their final home game before the break for next weekend's NHL All-Star game.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass