Preview #38: Predators visit Blues Friday night
Nashville Predators 19-14-4
St. Louis Blues 21-11-4
On Friday night, the Nashville Predators will visit the St. Louis Blues for the second of three games this season at Scottrade Center. While the Blues have undergone quite a transformation under new Head Coach Ken Hitchcock, the Predators have defeated St. Louis both times they have played this season.
Starting the season 6-7-0, Davis Payne was fired as the head coach of the St. Louis Blues. Hitchcock has gone 15-4-4 since taking over the reigns. One of the four overtime losses came at the hands of Nashville when the Predators beat the Blues at Bridgestone Arena in a shootout on December 17th. The first Predators victory over St. Louis this season came opening weekend of the NHL’s regular season, a 4-2 win on October 8th in Missouri.
Over the last 10 games, both teams share a similar record. Nashville is 7-3-0 while St. Louis enjoys a 7-2-1 record in their last 10 contests.
The Predators are coming off of a 2-1 shootout win on Wednesday night against the struggling Minnesota Wild. Nashville’s continued success will be tested in the absence of captain Shea Weber. Weber won’t play on Friday and is doubtful for Sunday’s game against Calgary.
Weber suffered a concussion last Friday night when late in the third period he took a hit to the head from Dallas Stars defenseman Mark Fistric.
Weber isn’t the only Nashville defender out of the lineup. Kevin Klein has missed five games with flu-like symptoms and has been placed on injured reserve.
With two veteran blueliners out of the lineup, Nashville is left with three rookies on the back end. Roman Josi, Jon Blum, and Ryan Ellis have all been solid enough, but it won’t be easy to keep pucks away from netminder Pekka Rinne. The Predators will have to rely on the Vezina trophy runner-up even more so than usual with Weber and Klein out of the lineup.
On Tuesday night, the Blues lost defenseman Kris Russell to a groin injury. Hitchcock told St. Louis Today reporter Jeremy Rutherford that Russell is expected to be out for three weeks. Ian Cole will take his spot in the lineup. T.J. Oshie is also questionable for Friday’s game against Nashville. Oshie missed two games with a ligament injury to his left wrist sustained against Phoenix last Friday night.
Friday’s game could be another goaltending duel. Brian Elliott enjoys a 1.63 goals against average and is second in the League to Boston’s Tuukka Rask who has a 1.61 goals against average. Elliott also has a .940 save percentage. Against Nashville, Elliott has only played two games and has a 1-1-0 record with a 2.03 goals against average and a .933 save percentage.
Since Friday’s game is the first in back-to-back contests for St. Louis, the Blues may elect to play Jaroslav Halak in goal rather than Elliott due to his familiarity and success against the Predators. Halak has a 6-2-2 record against Nashville in 10 starts with a 1.75 goals against average and a .928 save percentage.
Rinne is 10-5-2 against the Blues with a 1.95 goals against average and a .931 save percentage.
With a win, the Predators would pull to within two points of the Blues. Nashville’s next game is New Year’s Day when the Predators host the Calgary Flames at a special 5 p.m. CT start time.
Photo credit: AP