Predators Game Day Preview: St. Louis @ Nashville

[SB Nation] - [St. Louis Game Time] - [NHL] - [Tennessean]

At long last, we've reached the end of the regular season. Its been an amazing ride over 81 games, which we'll recap in full- after the business at hand. The Predators have made the postseason for the fifth time in six years, and for the first time in three years look poised to make some noise. But first, the 2009-10 regular season comes to a close on Fan Appreciation Night against division rivals the St. Louis Blues. 

While the Nashville Predators have clinched a playoff spot, their seeding is in their hands yet out of their hands all at the same time. A win tonight would cap an impressive 100 point season, and helps (though doesn't guarantee) Nashville steer clear of the San Jose Sharks in the playoffs. 

Analysis and lineups after the jump.

Nashville

Last time out, the Preds put forth a lackluster effort against what was at the time their most likely first round opponent. Defensive lapses abounded, and Pekka Rinne had his first off night in a very long time. I've noticed that when Nashville loses badly, it always coincides with playing away from the system Barry Trotz has instituted. If the Predators want to do anything at all in the playoffs, its going to come from tight-checking and sound defensive hockey. 

The lone bright spots from the loss were the return of captain Jason Arnott and the power play finally breaking out of an awful slump through a goal by Steve Sullivan.

Lines

Per John Glennon: 

Forwards
Wilson - Arnott (C) - Erat
Sullivan (A) - Goc - Ward
Tootoo - Boyd - Dumont
Spaling - Legwand - Smithson
O'Reilly/Belak
Defense
Suter - Weber (A)
Hamhuis - Franson
Bouillon - Klein

Injuries

Leading goal scorer and team MVP Patric Hornqvist was hit (apparently) by a Shea Weber slapshot in the loss to Phoenix and will sit this one out, but Coach Trotz said that he'd be ready for Game 1 on the 14th or 15th. Denis Grebeshkov skated and put pucks on net yesterday, and said he 'feels fine'. It doesn't seem out of the question that he'd be available for a game 2 or 3, but I'm not sure if Barry Trotz wants to drop him into a lineup thats already jelled. 

In Net

Pekka Rinne

#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators

6-5

206

Nov 03, 1982

GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2009 - Pekka Rinne 57 3181 31 16 136 2.57 1507 1371 .910 7

St. Louis

SLGT:

Sure, the team has a young nucleus that made the playoffs last year, but rarely does such youth produce a consistent effort.  I think a lot of us (maybe myself included) got ourselves suckered into thinking all of these youngsters would perform at the same consistent level this season that they ended last season with.  We were wrong, but it’s not unusual for that to be wrong.  The effort was rarely questionable, but by nature, youth tends to be all over the board and consistently inconsistent.  That’s what we got for much of the season.

Lines:

Forwards
Kariya - Backes - Oshie
Winchester - McDonald - Boyes
Steen - McClement - Berglund
Crombeen - Tkachuk - Perron
Defense
Brewer - Johnson
Polak - Jackman
Colaiacovo - Weaver

In Net

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 60 3452 29 22 145 2.52 1673 1528 .913 2

Injuries

St. Louis Blues Injuries

Probable

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Keith Tkachuk other-excused 04/09/2010
Andy McDonald head 04/09/2010

Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)

Player Injury Type Injury Date
T.J. Oshie other-excused 04/09/2010
Barret Jackman other-excused 04/09/2010
Patrik Berglund other-excused 04/09/2010
Roman Polak shoulder 04/09/2010

Fearless Prediction

Sometimes I think I have a good idea of how a team will come out. I honestly have no negative or positive feelings headed into tonight's contest. Back after the San Jose Debacle, I was very concerned the Predators would overcompensate and play flat against Anaheim. They did not, and instead returned to Predators hockey, winning 1-0. Well, they were similarly beaten down in the third period against Phoenix. Its time to respond, with or without Hornqvist. Predators 4, Blues 2.

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