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Hawks take first game of mini-series

CHICAGO – With nearly a month remaining in the regular season, the Blackhawks are getting a little taste of the playoffs.

The Hawks took the ice against the Predators on Monday night at the United Center in the first of three meetings in a week between the teams.

“You can maybe get some good battles going like a playoff series,” winger Bryan Bickell said before the Hawks’ 3-2 victory over Nashville in a shootout. “You get in battles with players. It could be interesting, this little stint we’ve got with them.”

There was plenty of interest from the Hawks, as they shook off any fatigue they might have had while playing the second of back-to-back games. They won their second in a row and third out of four to improve to 27-5-3 on the season.

Defenseman Michal Rozsival scored the game-winner in the shootout while Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane also had goals in regulation.

Goaltender Corey Crawford did the rest to record the win, as he out-dueled Predators netminder Pekka Rinne to up his record to 15-4-3. Nashville, which got third-period goals by David Legwand and Taylor Beck to erase a 2-0 Hawks lead, dropped its third in a row.

Already playing without wingers Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp due to injuries, the Hawks lost center Dave Bolland with an undisclosed malady after taking two shifts in the second period.

Saad continued his push to be included among the candidates for the Calder Trophy, given to the league’s top rookie, when he put the Hawks ahead late in the first.

Jonathan Toews won a faceoff in the Nashville zone and headed to the front of the net while the puck slid to Niklas Hjalmarsson.

The defenseman hit Saad with a pass and the winger flung it toward the Predators net, where it found its way through traffic and past Rinne. After picking up 15 points (three goals and 12 assists) during March, Saad began April with another point to remain red-hot.

After having his eight-game points streak snapped, Kane was back to celebrating after he gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead in the second.

The Hawks dominated play in the second, out-shooting Nashville 18-4 for a 27-11 shot advantage through two periods.

In the third, it was a different story as the Preds controlled the puck throughout and battled back on goals by Legwand and Beck from in tight on Crawford.

After taking on the Blues on Thursday night, the Hawks will face the Predators in back-to-back games over the weekend.

“Three out of four games we play them so it’s going to be tough,” Saad said. “It’s kind of a like a playoff series so it’s going to be a battle.”

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