Nashville Predators: Critical Back-to-Back Starts With St. Louis Blues

Jan 11, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators center Nick Cousins (21) skates against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 11, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators center Nick Cousins (21) skates against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports /

A major reason why the Nashville Predators are where they’re at in the standings right now is due to avoiding any lengthy losing streaks, but that will be put to the test tonight against the St. Louis Blues.

It’s hard to believe that a Predators team that was once thought off as a rebuilding team has yet to lose more than two games in a row all season.

The Predators start a back-to-back in St. Louis tonight to take on a Blues team that’s playing really strong hockey right now and is neck and neck with the Predators in the Central Division race, seperated by just two points.

These two teams squared off in a really intense one on Novembe 11, with the Predators claiming the gutsy 4-3 overtime win courtesy of

Matt Duchene

‘s second goal of the night:

Duchene hasn’t cooled off since then as he’s second on the team in goals (17) and second on the team in points (34). He’s just eight points shy of his season-high with the Predators in points set in his first season in Nashville when he had 42 points in 66 games.

Two evenly-matched rivals?

Tonight’s game should feel like a playoff atmostphere. Both teams have high hopes of not only making the playoffs, but going deep. They play physical brands of hockey, but also have some lethal scorers, although I’d give the Blues the slight advantage offensively.

The Blues are stacked with quality scorers including Vladmir Tarasenko, Jordan Kyrou and Pavel Buchnevich. All three have 14 goals apiece, with the Blues having plenty of additional scoring depth behind them.

Additionally, the Blues are solid on special teams with a top-10 power play and penalty kill. They are a very disciplined team that forces the opponent to play mistake-free. The Predators can’t have a night of 16 giveaways like they did in the ugly loss to the Sabres on Thursday.

As for the Predators, they also have some scoring depth they can lean on behind their top scorers. However, the Predators badly need Filip Forsberg back to really boost their offensive capabilities, and there’s still no update on if he’ll be ready to go for this one:

Dante Fabbro‘s status is also unknown, which will really stretch the defense thin if he’s out. It could force Ben Harpur back into the lineup as Mattias Ekholm is also out due to covid-19 protocols.

Every team is dealing with roster shuffling at this time of year, and even more so due to covid-19 protocols. The teams that can dig deep into their depth will fair the best, and that’s what the Predators are up against tonight if Forsberg and Fabbro can’t find the ice.

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The Predators have really been depending on Juuse Saros heavily, but he should get a game off in this back-to-back. Whether it’s tonight or against the Canucks on Tuesday remains to be seen, but backup David Rittich will most likely get just his sixth start of the season in one of these games.

Jordan Binnington has 22 starts for the Blues on the season, but he hasn’t been lights out by any means. He’s giving up over three goals per game and a sub-91 save percentage. Not horrible, but not great, either.

I’d run Saros tonight in a crucial divisional matchup, and then Rittich against the Canucks on Tuesday. The Predators have to hope that Saros can steal another game, but the offensive support needs to be ramped up.

Nashville Predators have struggled to manufacture shots

The Predators are hovering around 30 shots on goal per game over their last four games, and only managed 20 shots on goal in a 4-2 win over the Kings on January 6.

A higher volume of shots on goal is needed if the goal support is going to increase for Saros, who has had to make 40 saves in two of his last three starts, and another 38 saves in the recent win over Arizona.

Head Coach John Hynes commented on the team’s effort in the 4-3 overtime loss to the Bruins on Saturday, per the team’s official website:

“I thought we were engaged, and we talked a lot about being a hard team to play against – physically and mentally… It was a very intense game, very physical, not a lot of free ice out there, both teams really battled hard” -Head Coach John Hynes on team’s effort in loss to Boston

When the Predators play with that kind of intensity and physicality, they’re going to win a lot of games this season. They can’t come out flat in a hostile environment tonight in St. Louis and fall behind two goals like they did against Boston. That was the difference-maker on Saturday.

I’m not worried about the Predators losing focus and letting this losing streak grow into a major problem. They’re a team that plays with a chip on their shoulder constantly, and they’re certainly not satisfied with being tied for first place with the Avalanche.

Tonight’s game will really be a test to see if the Nashville Predators are here to stay with teams like the Blues and the Avalanche in the Central Division race.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7 P.M. CDT in St. Louis. The Nashville Predators have won their last five meetings with the Blues dating back to November 23, 2019.

151. 22-11-5 (49P). 24-12-3 (51P). Monday, Jan 17. 99. STL -130. 7 PM CT. Balley Sports South, ESPN+