Photo: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Wouldn’t it be a riot if the players got to dress up for Hallowe’en games? If I were better at PhotoShop I’d have prepared a whole album full of images for you for this preview of the Blackhawks vs. Predators game, but instead we’ll just have to use our imaginations.

Nashville Head Coach Bary Trotz’s (Boris Badonov) team marches into the United Center tonight for these clubs’ first meeting of the season. These teams split the 6-game series last year 3 each, the biggest difference being the margin of victory. When Nashville won, it was a one-goal game. When Chicago won, it was (for some strange reason) *exactly* three goals. Go figure.

So what does Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville (Dennis Farina) have in store for us tonight? Much the same as last game against Columbus, save the starting goaltender. Corey Crawford (Joseph Gordon Levitt) will be back between the pipes for the Blackhawks tonight.

For some reason this Predators team always gives us fits. Trotz’s trap-style defense and pesky, speedy forwards usually throw a wrench into the Chicago game plan in the first two minutes of the game. The outcome is determined by whether or not we can break that pattern and play *our* game. We’ll see what happens tonight.

A great deal of the problem surrounds the two middle linebackers Nashville has in goal. Per the team’s announcement, we’re going to be facing 6’5″ starter Pekka Rinne (Boris Becker) and his .930 save percentage; but if we’re lucky enough to chase him, we get 6’6″ backup Anders Lindback (Larry Bird) with his .958 SVG. To say that we will need some significant net presence tonight is probably the year’s biggest understatement.

One thing working in our favor is that the Predators are averaging just 23 shots per game, second-worst in the league. Not what you’d call an offensive onslaught. They are also allowing, on average, 32 shots against. So their goalies are rescuing them, pure and simple. Solve the netminders, you beat Nashville.

So once again, we need to crank up the offense. Chicago has done a decent job of that, averaging 33+ shots per game to this point. But there’s the issue of scoring chances, as opposed to just shots. A lot of Chicago’s shots are coming from the perimeter, something that tonight’s goaltenders can handle with their eyes closed. Hoping for rebounds to smack in will work against Allen York; it will end in frustration with Pekka Rinne.

The Blackhawks need to focus on getting shots from in close, the way they did in the Championship year. We have some of the most effective snipers in the league; we need to get the puck loose and find them in the open, not just blast from the blue line and hope for a rebound. That will be key to solving the hulking mass of Nashville netminder that stands in the crease tonight.

Administrative nonsense: For Nashville, Sergei Kostitsyn (Leather Tuscadero) is a question mark for tonight with a left leg injury, and Mike Fisher (Carrie Underwood) is almost certainly a no-go with an upper-body injury. For the healthy Blackhawks, Daniel Carcillo (“Mad Bomber” from the Muppet Show) is serving game two of the ridiculously over-reaching suspension by dickless wonder Rob Blake (Cabbage Patch doll), who apparently got told he was in charge by his mommy and decided to make up new rules. The goings-on at practice this morning indicated that we will see John Scott (Lurch) suit up in his place again tonight. Sami Lepisto (Captain Jack Sparrow) gets to dress for another game in lieu of Sean O’Donnell (Captain Lou Albano), meaning we’ll see the same lineup as Saturday.

7:3opm puck drop tonight at the UC. Comcast SportsNet has the TV coverage; broadcast radio is WGN AM-720; XM subscribers will find the game on channel 213; Sirius Premiere customers scroll over to channel 212.

Follow Cheer The Anthem on Twitter @CheerTheAnthem and on Facebook
Download Cheer The Anthem’s Android app for immediate alerts to new posts