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Game 53: St. Louis @ Nashville – Narrowing the Gap


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Photo by Mark Buckner/NHLI via Getty Images

The Blues and Predators have no love loss between them, and they don’t have many points separating them either. The Blues are coming off a 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings last night in L.A. Needless to say, their frequent flier miles are adding up fast.

Nashville is coming off their road trip going 1-1-0 with a huge comeback win over Minnesota and a streak-busting 4-1 loss against Philadelphia. If these two games have showed Predators fans it’s that a ho-hum effort and an amazing third period can win a game and a solid 60 minute effort can sometimes net a 4-1 loss when facing a goaltender in the zone (Bryzgalov).

It’s a four-point swing game tonight and an important test for both teams. Can the Preds send the Blues home on a sour note?

This Year’s Series: 3-0-0 Home (1-0-0) Away (2-0-0)

Looking at the Blues: If the Predators have been on fire since December, the Blues have been on fire since the hiring of Ken Hitchcock. The new head coach of the Blues is already buzzing for Jack Adams consideration with his turn-around of the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues have a great combination of veteran leadership and young guns. T.J. Oshie is an amazing talent that has operated under the radar of most NHL writers and mouthpieces. His coming out party has been this season posting the second most points for the Blues (32). What about the resurgence of Brian Elliott who boasts a ridiculous 1.69 GAA and 15 wins on the year. This was quite enough to get him a berth in the All-Star game a few weeks back.

Looking at the Predators: The Predators played a solid game against the Philadelphia Flyers but it was not to be as the Flyers with the help of a tenacious Wayne Simmonds hosed the Predators fire with a 4-1 loss. Matt Halischuk and Craig Smith continue to shine and rack up points on the bottom line. Nashville has been able for most of the season to roll four decent lines and a score-by-committee approach has Nashville at 9th in the league ahead of offensive powerhouses San Jose and Washington.

The big question going into tonight’s game is where does Jerred Smithson fit? Smithson is the staple and prototype Predator but an untimely penalty by Smithson pretty much iced the game in Philly’s favor on Thursday. The fourth line didn’t seem to have as much jump as it had with Yip being on the line with Smith and Halischuk. Look for Trotz to insert Yip back into the lineup and have Smithson sit for at least tonight’s game.

For the Blues to win: For most superstitious believers, many would say the Blues are “due”. They have not won a game against Nashville yet this season pushing two of them to a shootout. The Blues have games in hand over Nashville and a regulation win would further the distance from Nashville and close the distance for the Blues to make a run at division leading Detroit.

Elliott has been outstanding and the Blues can score on just about every line, similar to Nashville, but with much flashier snipers and hard drivers to the net. The Predators should watch out for Oshie as he has been a Pred-killer all season going 2 goals, 1 assist against Nashville this year.

For the Predators to win: The Predators have to have a short memory and erase the loss against Philadelphia. An important two points hangs in the balance tonight in front of a reported sell-out crowd at Bridgestone Arena. It was against St. Louis that the famed “standing ovation” came into existence. It may be time to call to arms the Predator faithful and take the two points from their division rivals.

Pekka Rinne will most likely get the start tonight and get back to work on an impressive streak of wins and game-changing saves. Look for Yip to be back with Smith and Halischuk and that line to contribute with speed and a willingness to put shots on net. Tootoo has been playing with reckless abandon and he is due to break out in a big way (was hoping he would on his birthday Thursday night).

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