The Nashville Predators take on division rivals the St. Louis Blues tonight at Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville, with the hopes of formally eliminating them from the playoffs. The Predators are in fifth in the West with a 44-28-6 mark and 94 points, while the Blues sit back in tenth with a 37-30-9 record and 83 points. St. Louis is on the cusp of being eliminated, and almost surely needs to win out in order to have any chance whatsoever to make the playoffs, while the Predators desperately need to put some distance in between them and the scorching hot Red Wings.
With the stage set, below is some analysis, lineups, and your prediction...
Are they 'tired'? Perhaps running out of gas? Train just coming off the tracks? I've seen all of these sentiments since the Los Angeles loss, and I disagree vehemently (for now). A 7-2-1 mark in the last ten games is hardly cause for alarm, and over the course of 82 games, you're going to see some rough patches. Remember that five-game losing streak earlier in the year? The Predators lost to the Leafs, Coyotes, Avs, Blue Jackets, and Wings before busting out against the Thrashers, and look where we are now- still firmly in a playoff spot. I'm not concerned, and you shouldn't be either. I wouldn't mind notching a power play goal or two, though.
There's one player on the team who should take absolutely no blame for any of the week's past losses.
|2009 - Pekka Rinne||54||3002||29||15||127||2.54||1414||1287||.910||7|
We've been given no timetable on the return of captain Jason Arnott, and its becoming more troublesome by the day. If Arnott doesn't play today; don't be surprised if we don't see him till the playoffs or beyond. Martin Erat and Joel Ward returned on Tuesday, though, which was a sight for sore eyes.
Blues fans seem to be pleased with former Predator Chris Mason:
Chris Mason had as solid a game in net as he has had all season (although I wasn't in the building yet for the first goal, so I don't know if that was his the one that hit his softie quota for the night). That said, I'm not about to be tricked into switching my stance from "We need a legitimate starting goalie" to "Maybe we should bring back Mason." What camp are you in?
St. Louis has won three in a row, but they're still very much on the outside looking in with six games remaining. They trail Colorado by six points. Their power play is actually worse than Nashville's, so the Predators penalty kill can keep up the good work (or hey, just stay out of the box), but that 1-16 power play slump we're in? Don't get your hopes up. The Blues kill off a staggering 86.4 percent of penalties, which is good for, oh, best in the league.
UPDATE: No Paul Kariya for the Blues tonight, as Alexander Steen takes his place on the top line:
|2009 - Chris Mason||56||3262||27||21||137||2.52||1584||1447||.914||2|
St. Louis Blues Injuries
|Player||Injury Type||Injury Date|
|Paul Kariya||lower body||03/31/2010|
Its setting up to be a bounce-back game for the Predators. They've been shut out at home two games in a row, which you hope is getting under the skin of players, Martin Erat and Joel Ward, two absolutely crucial pieces to the puzzle should be fully healthy tonight, and they had a day off yesterday. The Blues have won three in a row, but I don't think it has much bearing on tonight. Predators 4, Blues 1.
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