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Nashville Predators @ St. Louis Blues Preview

Fresh off their opening win in Columbus, the Nashville Predators head into St. Louis for another divisional tilt tonight at 7:00 p.m. Central. Last season, the Preds went 2-3-1 against the Blues, and I expect St. Louis will battle side-by-side with Nashville right down to the wire for a playoff spot, after falling short last year due in large part to a series of injuries to key players.

Follow after the jump for the breakdown!

The Stats

Here's how the Preds and Blues stack up (these are final numbers from last season):

 Nashville (44-27-11) at St Louis (38-33-11) 
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GF/60 SF/60 Save %
 NSH Offense 2.50 28.9 8.60% 2.10 30.5 931  NSH Defense
 STL Defense 2.60 27.2 906 2.60 27.2 9.40%  STL Offense
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GA/60 SA/60 Shoot %
Special Teams
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GF/60 SF/60 Save %
 NSH 5-on-4 5.00 46.6 10.80% 4.80 47.5 898  NSH 4-on-5
 STL 4-on-5 6.30 46.8 865 6.30 47.5 13.40%  STL 5-on-4
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GA/60 SA/60 Shoot %

Basically, the Blues were undermined by the worst goaltending performance in 5-on-5 in the NHL last season, while the Preds ranked 3rd. 

St. Louis Blues

The Blues are resting their hopes for this season upon two main premises: first, that the young core of the team will continue to improve and enjoy a healthier year, and secondly, that a couple key veteran additions (Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner) will provide the support and leadership which will allow them to pose a consistent scoring threat, no matter which line is one the ice. St. Louis Game Time attempted to set some reasonable expectations:

First and foremost, I'd caution you hyperventilating Blues fans to not expect Jason and Jamie (together, Jameson?) to return to top form-both of them are 36. Gentlemen, ask your wives if your game has gone downhill since you were 29. You may be surprised to hear you're just not that great at stickhandling anymore. (Pardon me while I duck out of the way of the geriatric tomatoes you're chucking at me.)

But they're obviously not worthless, even outside their presence in the locker room (which is supposedly good, right?), and if you look even deeper at the numbers, it might even appear that these guys both still have enough gas left in the tank to be significant contributors to this hockey team, especially if it's getting ready to make the leap. (It is, right? Right?!)    

Well, there's the hope that Jaroslav Halak turns out to be worth that 4-year, $15 million contract, too.

Nashville Predators

Last night, we saw those funky lines from this week's practice put into action, and despite the victory over Columbus, I still can't get my head around why a guy like Patric Hornqvist is toiling on the 4th line, and am a bit concerned about that 3rd defense pairing of Teemu Laakso and Jack Hillen, and their ability to take on big, powerful forwards (of which St. Louis has a few, too).

On the positive side, however, the trio of Colin Wilson, David Legwand and Craig Smith appears to have some real promise, and the Big 3 of Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne look to be in mid-season form already.

The questions heading into tonight's game will be whether Anders Lindback might get the start in goal, and whether any of last night's scratches (Zack Stortini, Niclas Bergfors, Mattias Ekholm) will make their debut with the Preds.

So tune in at 7:00, join us in the Game Thread, and let's see if they the Predators can close out this back-to-back set...