One of the hottest teams in the entire National Hockey League, the Nashville Predators kick off a busy weekend tonight against the 9-9-4 St. Louis Blues, the last-place team in the Central Division. In their only previous meeting this season, the Preds took a 3-1 decision in St. Louis on November 10. With a win tonight, they could tie a franchise-record 8 game home-ice winning streak from the 2006-7 season.
A special treat also comes with the debut of the new third jersey by the team - originally slated for tomorrow, they've gone ahead and decided to have the team wear them both Friday and Saturday night.
After the jump, let's break down the matchup...
Meet the Enemy
With a 4-5-3 record in their last 12 games, the Blues are struggling to keep pace in the Central these days. They did beat Dallas in a shootout Wednesday coming into tonight's game, including a notable fight from their captain, Eric Brewer, as noted over at St. Louis Game Time:
Paul Kariya, who's making $6 million a year to lead this team offensively, has just one assist in his last 14 games, and has been bounced around the lineup by head coach Andy Murray.
The main guys to watch out for are defenseman Erik Johnson (3 goals and 13 assists), David Perron (9 goals, 5 assists) and Andy McDonald (6 goals, 7 assists).
Meet the Good Guys
The recall of Dave Scatchard and Alexander Sulzer means that we'll probably see fresh faces inserted into the lineup to balance the workload, but the lines carrying over from Wednesday look as follows, with the assumption that Scatchard takes Andreas Thuresson's spot:
With B.J. Crombeen and Cam Janssen available (and scrapping) for the Blues, however, might Wade Belak get on the ice again?
Even Strength Play
|5-on-5 Team Data from Behind the Net|
|Team||GP||GF||GA||GF/60||Shots For/60||Sht %||GA/60||Shots Ag/60||Save %||+/- per 60|
One aspect that's kept the Blues competitive is their goaltending - that .931 5-on-5 save percentage is the best in the NHL.
St. Louis PP vs. Nashville PK
One of the more perplexing issues facing St. Louis is their lack of power play production. At 13.1%, 29th in the league, the Blues have fallen hard from their 8th-place standing from last season. Nashville's penalty killing has been excellent during the month of November, and now carries an 80% success rate, good for 16th. Another factor working in Nashville's favor here is that the Blues are 25th in total PP opportunities, so they don't draw many calls. Combine that with the Preds' discipline in avoiding penalties as well, and they should be able to tip the special teams battle to their advantage.
Nashville PP vs. St. Louis PK
The good times are really rolling on the Nashville power play, having risen to 18.9% and 18th in the NHL after languishing in the dumps for the entire month of October. The PP has also been a bit of a good-luck charm; after Dumont's score to open Wednesday's game at Colorado, the Preds are now 12-0-0 when they connect on the power play. The Blues do boast a solid PK group, however (83.0%, 9th best), so this could prove a tall task tonight.
Chris Mason enjoys playing against the Preds, and has had a good season so far:
#50 / Goalie / St. Louis Blues
Apr 20, 1976
|2009 - Chris Mason||16||945||6||7||36||2.29||458||422||.921||0|
Pekka Rinne, however, is on fire in the Nashville net, and has tied Tomas Vokoun's franchise record with seven straight wins:
#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators
Nov 03, 1982
|2009 - Pekka Rinne||16||903||11||4||35||2.33||414||379||.915||2|
Can the Predators keep their momentum rolling? Hopefully the debut of the new third jerseys and an energetic home crowd can maintain the good vibes flowing through the team right now. Against the Blues, however, they can expect a tough, determined effort and probably some nastiness from Crombeen and Janssen. Can Nashville remain disciplined and leverage special teams success to another victory?
For discounted tickets to this or any other Nashville Predators home game, you can follow this link and use the special offer code "PREDS".