Blackhawks Vs. Predators Preview: Chicago Hopes To Clinch Playoff Spot On Saturday

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 25: Niklas Hjalmarsson #4 of the Chicago Blackhawks trties to knock the puck away in front of Corey Crawford #50 as Patric Hornqvist #27 of the Nashville Predators reaches in with his stick at the United Center on March 25, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Chicago Blackhawks (43-26-9, 95 pts) visit the Nashville Predators (45-25-8, 98 pts) on Saturday night. Chicago can clinch a playoff spot if they earn at least one point and the Phoenix Coyotes lose to the Anaheim Ducks in regulation.

When the Chicago Blackhawks (43-26-9, 95 pts) visit the Nashville Predators (45-25-8, 98 pts) on Saturday night, they have the opportunity to clinch a playoff spot under the right circumstances. If Chicago earns at least one point and the Phoenix Coyotes lose to the Anaheim Ducks in regulation, the Blackhawks will have punched their ticket to the post-season. Meanwhile, Nashville is current the No. 4 seed in the NHL's Western Conference, and the Predators are still riding high ever since their 6-1 blowout win over Chicago in the last head-to-head meeting on March 25.

The other big news for the Blackhawks is that team officials (and Toews himself) are finally starting to push the story that Jonathan Toews is nearing a return to the ice after missing 18 straight games with a upper-body injury (read: concussion). Here is what Toews had to say on Thursday, via Brain Hedger of NHL.com:

"(I'm) getting very, very close," said Toews, who has skated for 10 straight days, including Thursday's morning workout. "I think getting to this point and not playing is probably the toughest thing to do, but at the same time it's smart. I definitely need a few more days to kind of see how it goes through this weekend and we'll see where we're at next week, basically. Right now, I'm feeling great. I've just got to get those legs going and try to get myself back to being as close to game shape as I can."

"Last time I was on the ice, I was feeling like I was close to being able to play and I (had) more of a setback than anything, so this time around I feel like there's nothing I can do really that's going to make that happen," Toews said. "I've been pushing myself harder and harder every day and I feel good. I feel confident. Any day now I should be ready to go."

Game date/time: Saturday, March 31, 2012, 7:00 p.m. CT

Location: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN

TV: WGN

For more on this game, stick with SB Nation Chicago. For more on the Blackhawks, visit Second City Hockey and for more on the Predators vist On the Forecheck. For more news, notes and analysis around the league head over to SB Nation's NHL news hub.

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