Central is toughest division
BY Adam L. Jahns email@example.com January 21, 2012 11:30PM
Marian Hossa scored both goals for the Hawks on Saturday night against the Predators. | Mark Humphrey~AP
Updated: February 23, 2012 8:24AM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Coach Joel Quenneville said a playoff-like mentality was needed Saturday against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. It’s because they were playing a Central Division opponent, and there isn’t a better division in the NHL.
“It’s arguably the best in a long time,” Quenneville said.
With the Predators beating the Hawks 5-2 on Saturday, the Central became the first division to have four teams with 60 points or more. The Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues and Hawks rank in the top four in the league in points. All four teams are among the NHL’s hottest.
“Right now, we’re all up there, and Nashville is a couple of points back,” Quenneville said. “So it’s pretty amazing at this time of the year that that’s the way it is. I don’t see it changing.”
The impressive thing is that all four teams are different, with the Hawks and Red Wings leaning more toward offense and the Blues and Predators relying on defensive styles. The Predators also have one of the top power plays in the NHL.
“There is something to be said about [the differing styles],” Quenneville said. “[The Predators] have kind of a pack mentality, where everybody works together well. It’s a very solid team game. You have to work for your space.”
Starting Tuesday, the Hawks have 10 games left against the Predators, Blues and Red Wings. They all have the potential for four-point swings with home ice for the playoffs there for the taking.
“Everybody has their strengths to their games,” Quenneville said. “When you play each other, hopefully you make some hay because that might be the differential between the teams getting any separation.”
The Hawks’ travel woes didn’t end when they flew out of snowy Chicago late Friday night. Thunderstorms and potential tornadoes in the Nashville area extended their flight time and arrival.
The Hawks appreciated the turnout at the United Center on Friday as fans braved the conditions to attend their 3-1 victory against the Florida Panthers.
“I live about 10-15 minutes from the rink, and it took me an hour and a half to get through it,” forward Patrick Kane said. “It’s good to see all the fans come out, especially through a snowstorm like that.”
Goalie Corey Crawford was the last to arrive at the United Center, according to Quenneville, who said no one will be facing any fines for their arrival times.
In the stands
The Hawks stuck with the same lineup as John Scott, Sami Lepisto and Bryan Bickell were healthy scratches.
Predators All-Star defenseman Ryan Suter missed his third game in a row with an upper-body injury.