Tonight some of the best i the West will face off tonight in Tennessee. The Blues visit the Preds, after getting a much-needed couple of days off while on a long road trip, which helped them get a little bit healthier. Strong enough to make it an exciting game on a Saturday night.
Blues Defenseman, Kevin Shattenkirk is also expected to make his return for as Nashville is the second stop of a four-game stand, facing some strong opponents.
The Blues have an amazing record, of 9-3-1, but you’d never guess that they have been down multiple key players for much of the season. It showed in a tough loss against Los Angeles on Tuesday, where they were scoreless in a 3-0 home game. Right after they jumped on a charter flight to Chicago for a game the next night, but it was diverted because of fog. That forced them to bus it from Milwaukee, arriving at their hotel around 4 a.m. with a early morning practice waiting.
Looks like the sleepless night didn’t hinder them. Though they trailed the Blackhawks by three goals, after allowing five first-period goals, they capped a stunning comeback when Vladimir Tarasenko scored in overtime for a 6-5 win. They walked out of there with 2 points but probably has little gas left in the tank.
St. Louis forward, Alexander Steen scored twice for the Blues, who despite winning were actually outshot 43-29. Jay Bouwmeester finally scored on the power play after the Blues went 0 for 21 over its previous six games.
“It’s a real courageous win,” said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. “I mean with the day or night or whatever you want to call what we had … guys deserve a lot of credit.”
The injuries have not been easy as their Center Paul Stastny broke his right foot on Oct. 16 and will be out for at least another couple of weeks. Jaden Schwartz is months from playing after fracturing his left ankle. Center Patrik Berglund hasn’t played a game yet this season due to a shoulder injury. Shattenkirk had missed the last 10 games with a groin injury. Steve Ott left the Chicago game in the second period with an upper-body issue. The list just seems to keep on going, but the team has compenstated for the loses impressively.
Shattenkirk, should be making his return against the Predators tonight, so that will be a big piece recovered on the blue line. The Blues also this week signed Martin Havlat to a deal, securing his services for another year.
“Without names like Stastny, Schwartz, Shattenkirk and Berglund in there, all of a sudden it’s a 6-5 game,” said captain David Backes, who had a goal and an assist. “We’re looking to win a 2-1 game or a 1-0 game. That’s our wheelhouse. A 6-5 game, we’re not going to win too many of those with that firepower out.”
Nashville who is also playing spectacularly has a record of 8-2-2, and has played one-goal games in four of its last five. They are coming off a 2-1-1 road trip after beating Minnesota 3-2 on Thursday. Cody Hodgson broke the tie with 5:21 left in the third to snap a two-game skid, so the Preds look like they are back on track.
In an strange scheduling twist, that game marked the first contest the Predators played within the Central Division.
“It’s one of many, but it’s a good way to start in the division,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “You just had to grind it out.”
Nashville’s Pekka Rinne improved to 7-1-2 with a 1.98 goals-against average by making 27 saves. He has played well as of late and has a great record against the Blues, winning three of his last four starts against them. He wasn’t in net for the last meeting that took place on Jan. 29 though, when Nashville lost 5-4 in a shootout, Mike Fisher netting two goals and an assist in that conetst.
Brian Elliott made 33 saves in that loss. He hasn’t been playing that great. He got the start against Chicago this past Wednesday, before being pulled with three minutes to go in the first period in favor of rookie Jake Allen, who could be back in net against the Predators even though he has struggled against them posting a 3.32 GAA and a 84.9% save percentage. Allen made 22 saves to win his only start against Nashville 4-3 on Nov. 13, 2014. The coach has not announced who will start in net tonight.
This should be an exciting and fast paced games with lots of goal, but Nashville is at home, and better rested, ready to take the fight to the Blues.
Our Prediction: Predators over Blues, 4-2