Predators Game Day Preview: Nashville @ St. Louis

There's no rest for the weary as the Predators head into St. Louis later today (5:00 p.m. Central) to take on the Blues. Captain Jason Arnott didn't travel with the team after suffering a head injury in last night's win over Columbus, on what Barry Trotz called a slew foot by Sammy Pahlson.

Be sure to keep an eye out for a boisterous contingent of Predators fans at today's game, as team PA announcer Paul McCann leads a merry band into the home of the Blahs.

Follow after the jump for today's preview...

Meet the Good Guys

Winners of five straight, the Predators appear to be hitting their stride of late. Two shutouts in a row (over Minnesota Thursday and Columbus last night) certainly have to make the coaching staff optimistic that the team is getting ready for playoff-intensity hockey.

The bad news, of course, is the likely absence of Jason Arnott tonight. Expect Cal O'Reilly to return to the lineup. I wouldn't be surprised to see him slot right in between Martin Erat and Colin Wilson, based on his experience playing with Wilson in Milwaukee.

That would yield lines of...

Forwards
Wilson - O'Reilly -Erat
Sullivan - Goc - Hornqvist
Tootoo - Boyd - Dumont
Ward - Legwand - Smithson
Defense
Suter - Weber
Hamhuis - Franson

Bouillon - Klein

Don't pay too much attention to the sequencing of the lines, as the ice time distribution has been pretty even lately.


Nashville Predators Injuries

Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Denis Grebeshkov other-excused 03/08/2010

Meet the Bad Guys

We're close to being able to write off the Blahs from playoff contention, but not quite there. In 10th place with 77 points, St. Louis sits 6 points behind 8th-place Detroit. Not only would they have to pass the Red Wings over the final 11 games, but also the Calgary Flames, stand at 81.

The hosts won't be well-rested either, as they won 1-0 last night as well, at New Jersey.


St. Louis Blues Injuries

Questionable

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Roman Polak other-excused 03/21/2010

Even Strength Play

5-on-5 data from Behind the Net
 TEAM GP GF GA GF/60 SF/60 Sht % GA/60 SA/60 Save Pct. +/- per 60
 Nashville 72 140 131 2.4 29.7 8.1 2.3 28.6 .921 +0.2
 St. Louis 71 127 137 2.3 28.9 8.1 2.5 29.2 .913 -0.2

The sore thumb that sticks out here is the Blahs' goaltending; .913 is a comparatively lousy save percentage in 5-on-5 play, so the Preds need to roll their four lines and keep firing pucks on net until something good happens.

Special Teams

St. Louis Nashville
PP % 16.9% (22nd) 75.9% (29th) PK %
# of PP's 266 (18th) 232 (29th) # of PK's
Advantage: none
PK % 85.9% (2nd) 17.9% (16th) PP %
# of PK's 297 (1st) 257 (25th) # of PP's
Advantage: none

The big opportunity here for the Preds is to tilt the special teams balance in their favor; the Blues may have a great penalty kill, but if you spend too much time on the PK, something bad will happen eventually.

Goaltending

Pekka Rinne may be hotter than Prince's Hot Chicken, but I can't imagine he'd get the start just 22 hours after the opening faceoff in last night's game. That would mean Dan Ellis gets his first start since the 3rd period meltdown in San Jose 10 days ago:


Dan Ellis

#39 / Goalie / Nashville Predators

6-0

188

Jun 19, 1980



GP MIN W L GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2009 - Dan Ellis 30 1654 14 13 75 2.72 819 744 .908 1

Since Ty Conklin got the win last night for St. Louis, we'd expect to see Chris Mason in action tonight. He's been red-hot against the Predators whenever he's got the chance to play his former teammates:


Chris Mason

#50 / Goalie / St. Louis Blues

6-0

195

Apr 20, 1976



GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2009 - Chris Mason 52 3023 24 20 130 2.58 1456 1326 .911 2

Summary

The Preds need to keep piling up the points, as Detroit and Calgary are keeping pace these days. While the 5-8 seeds in the Western Conference are still a jumbled mess, the Predators need to focus on maintaining a good defensive team game, which will be essential to any playoff success.

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