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04/06/2013 6:56 PM EDT
Blackhawks beat Predators 1-0
CHICAGO 1, NASHVILLE 0

By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The Chicago Blackhawks have plenty of
offense.



With the regular season starting to wind down, they're providing
a strong reminder that they can play pretty stingy defense, too.



Bryan Bickell scored in the first period, and Ray Emery made 20
saves and the Blackhawks beat the Nashville Predators 1-0
Saturday for their third win in four games.



"That's a team that you've really got to play some boring hockey
against," Emery said of Nashville. "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."



Chicago improved to 12-0-1 against the Central Division this
season and moved closer to clinching the playoff berth.



The Blackhawks won their third against Nashville this season and
second in six days. They'll have a chance at their third in a
week Sunday night in Chicago as these teams wrap up a
back-to-back.



Emery posted his second shutout and the 13th of his career, and
Chicago improved to 16-3-4 in one-goal games this season.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville called Emery rock solid in doing
what he had to do for the shutout.



"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."



Chicago came in needing just four points to clinch that playoff
berth. Now Blackhawks could clinch before taking the ice Sunday
with losses by a couple other teams.



With the afternoon faceoff, enough of the Blackhawks' faithful
got a flight to Nashville to make it feel like the United Center
chanting, "Let's go Hawks" even before the puck dropped. The
arena was packed with 17,256 fans in attendance in a building
whose capacity is listed at 17,113.



The Predators are the Western Conference's only team to reach
the semifinals each of the past two seasons but desperately
needed a win with only nine games left.



Instead, Nashville lost its second straight and fourth in five
games playing Saturday without center Paul Gaustad, whose upper
body injury will keep him out at least a couple more games along
with left wing Gabriel Bourque and forward Colin Wilson, who's
been out since March 9.



"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."



They had their chances in the third with a double minor when
Daniel Carcillo high-sticked Nashville captain Shea Weber,
nicking the defenseman's nose and drawing blood at 7:58 of the
third.



But the Blackhawks improved to 16 of their past 16 penalty
kills. Patric Hornqvist poked away a would-be empty netter by
Chicago right wing Michael Frolik with 1:30 left as he slid into
the goal post knocking it off its moorings.



Nashville took its timeout only to see Emery stop several
chances including a wraparound pass from Taylor Beck to
Hornqvist. Brandon Yip was just wide of the net before the final
horn.



Predators goalie Pekka Rinne called it a tough loss.



"Obviously you know the standings and everything, but you try
not to look at it right now," Rinne said. "You try to focus on
one game at a time. Now it's tomorrow 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."



The Blackhawks jumped out to a 1-0 lead when Michal Handzus
found Bickell on a cross-ice pass that Bickell one-timed past
Rinne catching the Nashville goalie out of position at 5:31 of
the first period. Trotz wasn't happy with defenseman Jonathan
Blum's play on the 2-on-1.



"Give our goalie a chance to make a save," Trotz said. "The way
he played that he just left Peks out to dry."



Bickell credited Marcus Kruger with starting the play for
Chicago, and the result gave him plenty of space to shoot.



"He set both the goalie and the defenseman over to give me the
empty net," Bickell said.



Chicago outshot Nashville 10-2 with one of the Predators' rare
chances broken up when Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook
hooked Nick Spaling on a breakaway chance.



Nashville managed a late flurry, but Emery had a kick save on a
Weber shot with 1:05 left in the first.



In the second, Emery stopped David Legwand from in front, got
help when a Chicago forward tripped Matt Halischuk at the crease
and then the goalie made a stop on Spaling as the Predators
spent more time in the offensive zone.



Notes: Patrick Kane gave Chicago fans a bit of a scare early in
the second when he appeared to catch an edge and his knees
smashed into the goal post. He skated slowly to the bench before
returning. ... Nashville defenseman Hal Gill turned 38 Saturday,
and he's the only player over 37 to play for the Predators. He's
18th among active players, having played 1,093 games.

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