Nashville Predators @ St. Louis Blues preview: 499 and counting

Tonight in St. Louis (7:00 p.m. on FS-TN), Barry Trotz and the Nashville Predators both will make a run for their 500th regular season victory, as their all-time record currently stands at 499-422-60-79 (that's 60 ties and 79 OT/SO losses, dating back to pre-lockout days). Can the Preds keep up their success (4-0-1 record) against the Central Division leaders, or will the Blues make a stand on home ice, where they boast the 2nd-best record in the NHL?

Follow after the jump for your preview...

Tale Of The Tape

Nashville (44-24-8) at St Louis (47-20-9)
NSH Offense vs. STL Defense STL Offense vs. NSH Defense
5-on-5
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
NSH Offense 2.4 (11th) 27.1 (26th) 9.0 (4th) 2.4 (12th) 30.5 (25th) 923 (9th) NSH Defense
STL Defense 1.6 (1st) 25.6 (1st) 938 (1st) 2.3 (16th) 30.3 (10th) 7.4 (23rd) STL Offense
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %
Special Teams
NSH PP vs. STL PK STL PP vs. NSH PK
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
NSH 5-on-4 7.7 (1st) 46.2 (21st) 16.7 (1st) 6.3 (19th) 52.1 (22nd) 878 (16th) NSH 4-on-5
STL 4-on-5 5.0 (6th) 44.1 (6th) 887 (11th) 6.0 (17th) 50.7 (9th) 11.8 (17th) STL 5-on-4
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %

Suffocating defense is what it's all about with St. Louis, the formula which has led to a dominant performance ever since Ken Hitchcock took over.

St. Louis Blues

The Blues are on cruise control right now, preparing for the playoffs as either the #1 or #2 seed in the West. Are they overly concerned about the prospect of facing a battle-hardened team in the #7 or #8 spot, a squad which has been in playoff mode for a few weeks while St. Louis has lacked that sort of pressure? Previous experience implies that's not perhaps so large a problem, as told by David Perron to STLToday.com:

"Knowing we'll be in the playoffs is a great feeling. (But) if you compare us to three years ago when we made the playoffs, it took all of our energy to make the playoffs. Once we clinched against Columbus, it felt like we won the Stanley Cup. It was great, but at the same time, knowing there's a lot more work after you made the playoffs this time around is more our attitude."

In that season, 2008-09, the Blues reached their first postseason since 2004, but bowed out quickly - a first-round sweep by Vancouver. They have higher aspirations this season.

The new emphasis on team defense has benefited the goaltenders in St. Louis, where even the backup has 8 shutouts on the season. Brian Elliot gets the start tonight for the Blues, after blanking Phoenix on Sunday night, a shutout which knocked me out of James Mirtle's Blogger Invitational Fantasy Hockey playoffs. I want revenge, tonight, boys!


Brian Elliott

#1 / Goalie / St. Louis Blues

6-3

201

Apr 09, 1985



GP MIN W L OTL GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2011 - Brian Elliott 35 2050 22 9 3 52 1.52 888 836 .941 8



St. Louis Blues Last 5 Games

@ Phoenix Sun 03/25 W 4 - 0
@ Los Angeles Thu 03/22 SO - L 0 - 1
@ Anaheim Wed 03/21 L 3 - 4
@ Tampa Bay Sat 03/17 W 3 - 1
@ Carolina Thu 03/15 L 0 - 2

Nashville Predators News

For the Predators, there is more to play for right now than St. Louis, that being the 4th spot in the West, which brings with it home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. There's also the point that the Predators are still sorting out exactly how their roster should look, establishing forward lines and D-pairs that provide the various qualities that Trotz needs to call upon during the course of a game.

One example there is how Hal Gill is asserting himself as a leading penalty killer, taking some of that burden off Ryan Suter. Here's what Ryan Porth wrote yesterday about Gill's work:

Ever since Gill stepped on the ice donning the gold and blue, the penalty kill is 34-for-38 - a percentage of 89.5. The unit has climbed from 16th to 13th in the NHL, 27th to 20th on home-ice. Last Tuesday's game against Edmonton was the first time an opponent had scored a power play goal in Bridgestone Arena since Gill was acquired.

The team has been disciplined in the last month, and Gill has been in the box for a couple key power plays against. Gill has also been on the ice for all four of the power play goals against since arriving. But his sheer presence has made the Predators' penalty kill tough for opponents to get much of anything going.

Said Trotz, "When opponents try to do stuff down low he gets down with that long body. It's like putting a small Volkswagen right in front of you. If you try to go around it or shoot through it, it's very difficult."


Hal Gill

#75 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators

6-7

244

Apr 06, 1975



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
SOG PCT
2011 - Hal Gill 71 1 11 12 -6 35 0 0 0 44 2.3

As far as integrating Alexander Radulov into the lineup and the locker room goes, it sounds like so far, so good, according to Josh Cooper at The Tennessean:

The Predators have found that the game-breaking forward has not so surprisingly fit in seamlessly on the ice - he already has one goal and two assists. Off the ice, Radulov has worked to forge relationships with new teammates and strengthen bonds with old ones who may have felt jilted when he left for the Kontinental Hockey League after the 2007-08 season.

"Same old, same old. I don't think he has changed too much," defenseman Ryan Suter said. "He has a lot to energy and is fun to be around."

Nobody's complaining about his three points in three games, certainly.

As far as tonight's lineup goes, Roman Josi is still out, while Jordin Tootoo and Martin Erat are listed as "questionable". Does that mean we might see Colin Wilson back in the mix? If so, it will be interesting to see where he lines up. Does Gabriel Bourque get bumped out of the way?

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