St. Louis Blues at Nashville Predators preview: Playoff Prelude?

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 17: Alexander Steen #20 of the St Louis Blues and Ryan Suter #20 of the Nashville Predators chase a puck at the Bridgestone Arena on December 17, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

The Nashville Predators meet up again with the St. Louis Blues tonight at Bridgestone Arena, in a matchup which, for now, looks like a 1st-round playoff preview. With a 4-0-0 record against the Blues (with two of those wins by shootout), the Preds may well enjoy some confidence against their divisional foe, but you can bet that the Blues will be looking to make a statement tonight.

Follow after the jump for your breakdown...

Tonight's game is not on TV, so save money on tickets with the OTF Discount!

Tale Of The Tape

St Louis (36-17-7) at Nashville (35-19-6)
STL Offense vs. NSH Defense NSH Offense vs. STL Defense
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
STL Offense 2.3 (16th) 31.1 (8th) 7.4 (23rd) 1.5 (1st) 25.4 (1st) 941 (1st) STL Defense
NSH Defense 2.3 (10th) 30.9 (28th) 927 (6th) 2.3 (16th) 26.7 (26th) 8.7 (10th) NSH Offense
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %
Special Teams
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
STL 5-on-4 4.9 (24th) 48.3 (17th) 10.2 (27th) 6.2 (15th) 45.1 (6th) 863 (23rd) STL 4-on-5
NSH 4-on-5 6.7 (21st) 53.8 (22nd) 875 (19th) 7.6 (2nd) 48.6 (15th) 15.6 (1st) NSH 5-on-4
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %

The Blues are the stingiest 5-on-5 team in the business, which has been the hallmark of their turnaround under Ken Hitchcock.

St. Louis Blues

While most of the playoff contenders are looking around at what trade market options might be available, but for St. Louis, they've gotten a boost from players returning from injury. David Perron was out for about a year with a concussion, but has come back as a leading offensive force, and center Andy McDonald just rejoined the lineup after missing four months.

David Perron

#57 / Left Wing / St. Louis Blues



May 28, 1988

2011 - David Perron 34 11 16 27 +13 20 4 0 2 73 15.0

Much of the discussion heading into this game will be around the return of former Preds captain Jason Arnott, though. Illness and injury kept him out of the Blues' last two visits to Nashville, and there's a portion of the Nashville fan base which can't wait to heap their disdain upon him. It looks like the Blues are pretty happy with how's doing, though.

Jason Arnott

#44 / Center / St. Louis Blues



Oct 11, 1974

2011 - Jason Arnott 52 13 12 25 +11 22 4 0 2 110 11.8

Back in 2009, a poll here named him as the center on an All-Time Nashville Predators Team, and I'd argue that he still deserves that spot for the time being (David Legwand has plenty of time left to wrest that honor away, though). As a longtime 2nd-line center, he stepped into a larger role with the Preds under some dire circumstances, and led the way out of the darkness that was 2007.

The good news at least for the Preds is that St. Louis comes in after having lost at home last night to the Bruins, so hopefully that game against one of the NHL's toughest teams took a little bit of starch out of them.

St. Louis Blues Last 5 Games

Boston Wed 02/22 L 2 - 4
@ Chicago Sun 02/19 L 1 - 3
Minnesota Sat 02/18 W 4 - 0
New York Islanders Thu 02/16 W 5 - 1
@ Columbus Tue 02/14 L 1 - 2

Nashville Predators

The home cooking has been good to the Predators lately, with an 8-0-1 streak heading in to tonight's game. That stretch has helped them earn an 11-point lead on the 9th-place team in the West, allowing the Predators to focus on gearing up for a playoff run, rather than obsess over every game along the way and the urgent need to scratch and claw for every point they can earn just to qualify.

The Central Division title is pretty much a foregone conclusion (SportsClubStats puts the Preds' chances at 3%), realistically we're looking at anything from a #4-6 seed in the West. That means a matchup against either Chicago or St. Louis, in the event of a #4-5 finish, or most likely San Jose, if the Preds finish in 6th.

All eyes will be on the morning skate to see if perhaps Patric Hornqvist might be ready to play, having been out of the lineup since the February 11 game at Boston. At least the Preds have been able to score 3 goals in three out of those four games, so the "scoring by committee" strategy is showing a bit of resiliency. Assuming Hornqvist is still out, the lineup decisions up front will be simple, because there are no spare forwards.

On defense, both Jack Hillen and Ryan Ellis were scratched Tuesday vs. Vancouver. Is there a chance either one can get back in tonight?

Besides the fact that the team has taken all four games against the Blues so far this season, Pekka Rinne will also look to maintain his strong record against them. In his career, he's 12-5-2 with a shutout, a 1.84 GAA, and .937 save percentage against St. Louis.

Pekka Rinne

#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators



Nov 03, 1982

2011 - Pekka Rinne 54 3115 33 13 6 123 2.37 1638 1515 .925 4
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