Game Preview #9: Blues vs. Predators

Season records

Predators 5-0-3
Blues 4-1-2

St. Louis Blues TJ Oshie (L) skates in on Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne of Finland as Rinne covers up with the puck in the first period at the Scottrade Center in St. Louiis on March 21, 2010. UPI/Bill Greenblatt Photo via Newscom
Can Nashville beat St. Louis for the sixth consecutive time? (Photo: Yardbarker.com)

The Predators play their Central Division rivals for the second of three times at the Bridgestone Arena tonight. The puck drops at 7 p.m. After tonight’s game, fans won’t see St. Louis again in Nashville until the final home game of the season. Of course, fans won’t see the Predators either. The team will be playing all road games for the next two weeks.

Nashville has yet to lose in regulation. St. Louis has only one regulation loss, and that loss came at the hands of the Predators. Both the Predators and the Blues have impressive victories coming into Thursday night’s match-up. On Sunday, Nashville beat Tampa Bay 4-3, the second game in a back to back series. The Blues were able to do something Nashville couldn’t, beat Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime.

The Blues are 4-0-0 at home, and have yet to win on the road posting a 0-1-2 record. St. Louis will have some reinforcements when the puck drops. Cam Janssen has been activated of injured reserve. However, the Blues will be playing without defenseman Roman Polak. Polak had his wrist cut by Sidney Crosby’s skate on Saturday night.

Nashville is still without defenseman Ryan Suter as well as centers Marcel Goc and Matthew Lombardi. Goc skated at the end of practice on Wednesday, but is still out for at least the next two games.

Nashville has beaten the Blues their last five meetings. Can they possible making it six in a row and at the same time extending their points streak to nine games?

It might seem like a broken record, but when a team plays 7 consecutive one-goal games, it is fair to say that once again special teams will be a factor in who comes out on top at Bridgestone Arena. In fact, the Blues and Predators have a tradition of close scoring games. Twelve of the last 16 games between the two clubs have been decided by one goal, dating back to February 16, 2008.

Because Nashville can score goals five on five (outscoring the opposition 15-10 at full and even strength), the real contest will be between the Blues powerplay and the Predators penalty kill. The Blues are having some power play problems. The Blues have a 16.7% conversion rate on the man advantage. That’s good for 13th in the league, but they have gone 2 for 13 over the last four games.

That cold Blues power play will face a red hot penalty kill. At 82.1% kill off rate, Nashville’s penalty kill percentage is only 21st in the league, but that’s a huge improvement over the last four games. After the overtime loss to Washington, Nashville was dead last in the league on the penalty kill with a kill off rate ion the 60s. The Predators have killed off 14 straight short-handed chances in the last four contests.

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