If the Nashville Predators don't play the dullest hockey in the NHL, they're certainly in the team picture.
The Blackhawks beat them at their own game Saturday, making a first-period goal by Bryan Bickell hold up in a 1-0 victory at Bridgestone Arena.
Blackhawks game dayNashville Predators at the United Center, 6 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: WGN 720-AM
The skinny: The Predators fell to 0-3 against the Hawks this season by losing 1-0 Saturday. It was their second straight loss and fourth in five games. Forwards Colin Wilson and Gabriel Bourque remain questionable with lower-body injuries. Neither played Saturday. The Hawks were without Patrick Sharp (shoulder) and Dave Bolland (lower body) Saturday.
Season series: Hawks lead 3-0.
Next: Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
-- Tim Sassone
Ray Emery made 20 saves for his second shutout of the season and 13th of his career.
"That's a team that you've really got to play some boring hockey against," Emery said. "You just try to be in good defensive position and take advantage when you get the opportunity. And I thought we played that strategy to a T tonight."
The Hawks are 12-0-1 against the Central Division this season and moved closer to clinching the playoff berth. It was their third win against Nashville this season and second in six days. The two teams play again Sunday night at the United Center.
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville called Emery rock solid in running his record to 13-1-0.
"I thought he was in control around the net against that team," Quenneville said. "There are a lot of scrambles, a lot of loose stuff. They create traffic, and I thought he found pucks and froze them and looked very big."
The Hawks came in needing just 4 points to clinch a playoff berth. They needed Phoenix to lose Saturday night to Colorado to get in.
The Predators lost their second straight when they need points in the worst way. With only nine games left on the schedule, they have lost four times in five games.
"A few deletions obviously at the trade deadline, so we're a little thin," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "But guys gave it everything they had, and we almost got that thing tied up."
The Predators had their best chance to tie in the third period after a double minor penalty to Daniel Carcillo for high sticking Shea Weber drew blood, but the Hawks killed it to make them 16-for-16 in the last eight games.
"That was probably the key moment of the game, that kill," Quenneville said.
"(Emery) was the best penalty killer there," Bickell said. "They had some good chances, but Ray-Ray said no. We were happy to get the shutout for him and go back home with the 2 points."
Now the Predators have to face the Hawks again at the United Center.
"Obviously you know the standings and everything, but you try not to look at it right now," Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne said. "You try to focus on one game at a time.
"Now it's (Sunday) night, and it is not going to get any easier. We have a pretty big task on our hands if we want to make it, and we have to start winning some games."
Bickell's goal came at 5:31 of the first period and capped a 2-on-1 with Michal Handzus, who waited Rinne out of position before making a nifty saucer pass over Jonathon Blum's stick to Bickell with an open net.
"Give our goalie a chance to make a save," Trotz said. "The way (Blum) played that he just left Peks out to dry."
Bickell knew the pass was going to come.
"I knew he was going to pass it; I just had a feeling," Bickell said. "With his skill and his patience he sucked both the d-man and goalie over to give me the open net."
•Follow Tim's hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.