Predators Game Day Preview: Nashville @ St. Louis

Tonight, the Nashville Predators take the ice to try and reverse what is quickly becoming an emergency. The Predators have now lost 5 straight games, getting outscored by a margin of 19-10 (four of which came Sunday against Anaheim). There have been some bright spots, but you can only have so many in a losing streak such as this. Its time to turn things around.

Before we get to the analysis and lineups, though, check out this interview that 104.5 the Zone did with Steve Sullivan:

Steve Sullivan on 1045 The Zone 20101110

The rest of your preview awaits after the jump.

Key Matchup

Xt  VS. Xt

One of the calling cards of both these teams is their forward depth. The main event for the Predators defensively will be David Legwand against David Backes, but the secondary tilt between Marcel Goc and Patrik Berglund might actually be more important. Berglund centers an extremely potent second line and one that has made the Predators pay several times already this season. Goc's linemates are both capable defensively, but he must carry the load.

Nashville

A couple of points for your consideration:

  • A lot of folks will point the blame for Nashville's slide to the absence of Ryan Suter, Martin Erat, and Matthew Lombardi, but the Predators had been getting things done thanks to their great depth. In fact, Suter, Erat, and Lombardi have not scored a single goal this year. It was guys like Marcel Goc and Joel Ward doing the contributing, and until they pick things back up, the well will remain relatively dry.
  • All the consternation and ink spilled before the season began regarding Cal O`Reilly's ability (or lack thereof) to play a crucial center role on the team was, to date, wasted. O'Reilly, quite simply, has been the best forward on the team through 13 games. His 11 points are not eye popping, but are surprising considering the low expectations for a player that had heretofore only shown "AHL skill". Oh, and another thing about those 11 points - they're more than Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, John Tavares, and Johan Franzen, among others.
  • There are quite a few problems with the Nashville Predators right now. The most prominent? Mental mistakes. There's no real way to quantify how they got there, or even how to get rid of them, but they must go, and tonight - particularly with the rowdy Blues on the docket.

In Goal

Pekka Rinne has struggled quite a bit lately, and with that have come the typical rumblings that Nashville still doesn't have a franchise goalie. I disagree.


Pekka Rinne

#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators

6-5

207

Nov 03, 1982

GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2010 - Pekka Rinne 8 438 2 4 22 3.01 245 223 .910 1

Projected Lineup

Martin Erat and Ryan Suter did not make the trip to St. Louis, while Matthew Lombardi did not get re-evaluated due to a family matter back in Montreal. Yesterday's lines in practice, per Seth, were as follows:

Forwards
Sullivan (A) - O'Reilly - Hornqvist
Dumont - Legwand - Ward
Tootoo - Goc - Kostitsyn
Wilson - Spaling - Smithson
Defense
Bouillon (A) - Weber (C)
Klein - Sulzer
Franson - O'Brien

St. Louis

St. Louis is one of the best teams in hockey, but hit a snag in their previous game. Here's SBN affiliate St. Louis Game Time on the Blues' putrid effort against Columbus last night - an 8-1 loss:

After back-to-back wins against Boston and the Rangers, the Blues were riding high. The Blues were 9-1-2 and everyone was singing the praises of the plucky young team that could. And then the wheels fell off.

For sixty minutes against Columbus, the Blues did absolutely nothing right. The offense didn't forecheck like it has been doing, the defense looked atrocious and just stood around. Jaroslav Halak and Ty Conklin looked more like Hannu Toivonen and Patrick Lalime.

In Goal

Despite getting lit up for 4 goals on 15 shots last night, Jaroslav Halak is one of the NHL's elite goalies this year.

Jaroslav Halak

#41 / Goalie / St. Louis Blues

5-11

179

May 13, 1985

GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2010 - Jaroslav Halak 10 615 8 1 15 1.46 266 251 .944 3

Projected Lineup

Surprisingly, the Blues are nearly as depleted as the Predators. At this writing, they're without half of their opening night defense - Roman Polak, Barret Jackman, and Carlo Colaiacavo are out of the lineup. Adding insult to...well, injury, young star T.J. Oshie broke his ankle in the loss to Columbus and will require surgery.

UPDATE: Per St. Louis Post Dispatch beat writer Jeremy Rutherford, Chris Porter and Nicholas Drazenovic have been recalled from Peoria, because David Perron is still out with a concussion.

Forwards
Perron - Backes (A) - Boyes
McDonald - Berglund - Porter
Steen - McClement - Crombeen
Drazenovic - D'Agostini - Janssen
Defense
Brewer (C) - Johnson (A)
Pietrangelo - Nikitin
Strachan - Oystrick

 

Prediction

There's no questioning that the Predators have to dig deep and reverse the losing, regardless of injuries or matchups. Reports out of the last few days' practices have been good, and the team seems responsive to Barry Trotz's exhortations. All that to say, though, I'm quite wary of facing St. Louis on a night after they got completely embarrassed by a division rival. Each team lacks important players, and Nashville could certainly choose tonight to return to winning, but I'll play the pessimist - St. Louis 3, Nashville 2(OT).

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