Blues-Predators Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 26, 2013
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Although Alexander Steen continues to score at a blistering pace, nothing else has been that easy for the St. Louis Blues since their hot start. They might not be catching a break despite the Nashville Predators missing their two-time Vezina Trophy finalist. The Blues will try to avoid their fourth loss in five games Saturday night when they visit the Predators, who seek their second straight win after losing Pekka Rinne for at least a month. Perhaps a bit rusty in its first game in a week, St. Louis (5-1-2) rallied back from a two-goal deficit to force overtime before losing 3-2 to Vancouver on Friday. Since outscoring opponents 19-7 while winning their first four games, the Blues have been outscored 14-9 during this 1-1-2 stretch. ''It took a while for us to wake up," said center David Backes, who has six goals and three assists. "It's not acceptable. We needed two points.'' While St. Louis may have cooled off, Steen certainly isn't showing any signs of slowing down. He's tied for second in the league with eight goals after scoring his fourth in three games Friday. Steen had a goal and an assist to lead the Blues past the visiting Predators 4-2 in the season opener Oct. 3. Nashville's Carter Hutton performed well in relief when Rinne struggled in that meeting, allowing only a Steen power-play tally on 22 shots in his 50-plus minutes. The Predators (6-4-1) aren't allowing anything on the power play these days, having killed off 22 straight penalties over their last seven games to match the franchise's second-longest streak. With Rinne out at least four weeks following arthroscopic surgery on his hip, Hutton stopped 34 of 36 shots Thursday in a 3-2 overtime win over Winnipeg that was the Predators' fifth victory in seven games. Hutton is 2-0-0 with a 1.37 goals-against average in three appearances, but both wins have come against the offensively challenged Jets. In his only career start against the Blues, he gave up three goals on 28 shots in a 3-1 loss while with Chicago on April 27. ''I am just taking it day-by-day, shot-by-shot, period-by-period, kind of slow things down,'' Hutton said. ''You look at the big picture, it can be a bit overwhelming, especially I've only played a couple of games.'' After allowing three goals on 21 shots against the Canucks on Friday, St. Louis' Jaroslav Halak figures to give way to Brian Elliott in the second of back-to-back games. Elliott has allowed five goals on 42 shots in two games, but is 3-1-0 with two shutouts and a 1.33 GAA in his last four meetings with Nashville. Whoever gets the start will be particularly interested in keeping the Predators off the board early since they're 5-0-1 when scoring first. Nashville, however, is tied for 25th with 2.0 goals per game. Patric Hornqvist has scored all of his team-high four goals within the last seven games. He also has five scores and nine assists in 21 career games against the Blues. St. Louis continues to be without forward Maxim Lapierre, who was suspended five games for an Oct. 15 hit on San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle. The Blues have won six of seven meetings, including the last three in Nashville.
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