Predators-Blues Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 04, 2013
Jaroslav Halak played a significant role in the St. Louis Blues' latest win over the Nashville Predators, but an injury will keep the goaltender out of the next matchup. Fortunately for the Blues, Brian Elliott has performed well in recent games against the Predators and is expected to get the chance to add to that string Tuesday night in St. Louis. Halak recorded his second shutout of this young season Jan. 24 by stopping 13 shots in a 3-0 victory over Nashville, but he was placed on injured reserve Sunday after straining his groin in a 5-3 loss to Detroit two days earlier. "We expect (Halak) to have no problem being ready for the weekend," Hitchcock told the team's website. "This is more just a precaution. We'd rather get it 100 percent and not have this thing lingering or doing anything like that." The Blues (6-2-0) are expected to turn to Elliott for at least the next two games while Halak heals, and the 27-year-old netminder will try to lead his team to its third win over its Central Division rivals in 16 days. Elliott replaced Halak in the first meeting with the Predators on Jan. 21 after the starter gave up three goals on 11 shots. Elliott stopped all 13 he faced and two more in the shootout to give St. Louis a 4-3 victory. He recorded a shutout in his most recent start against the Predators on March 27, making 24 saves in that 3-0 victory. Elliott is 3-1-0 with a 1.14 goals-against average - his best against any Western Conference opponent - in four lifetime matchups. While Elliott will try to help St. Louis rebound from the end to a four-game win streak, Pekka Rinne will likely get the chance to help his team build on a pair of shootout victories. The Predators (3-2-3) earned the latest of those Saturday against San Jose in the sixth of a seven-game road trip, which matches the longest in franchise history. Rinne gave up one goal for a second straight start and stopped all three shootout attempts in that 2-1 victory. He came out the winner in an eight-round shootout Thursday against Los Angeles. Nashville had lost its previous three shootouts before that 2-1 victory. "I'm finally making some saves in the shootout," Rinne said Saturday. "It's been a challenge for us but already we're on our fifth shootout. That's quite a bit since we've played eight games." Nashville has lost in shootouts twice during its four-game losing streak to St. Louis, its longest since a series-worst five-game skid Dec. 30, 2001-Oct. 30, 2002. Rinne has been in net for all of those past four matchups and has allowed three goals in each of the last three. Before being outdueled by Elliott at the Scottrade Center on March 27, the Predators goaltender was 7-2-0 with a 1.52 GAA in his previous nine games in St. Louis. Rinne has a respectable 2.16 GAA in seven starts this season but his teammates haven't given him much help, scoring a league-low 12 goals. One of Nashville's forwards, Patric Hornqvist, has been sidelined the last three games and is expected to miss the next three to four weeks due to a sprained left knee. Hornqvist, a three-time 20-goal scorer, had a goal and two assists in the Jan. 21 loss. St. Louis, meanwhile, boasts the NHL's reigning rookie of the month in Vladimir Tarasenko, who has five goals and five assists in his first eight games. The winger has registered four points (two goals, two assists) in the two meetings with Nashville. The Blues and Predators won't meet again until April 9 in Nashville.
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