Blues-Predators Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 16, 2011
The St. Louis Blues continue to roll behind a stingy effort in net. Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne has certainly picked up the pace following a recent rough stretch. With both teams riding four-game winning streaks, the Blues visit the Predators in a Central Division showdown Saturday night. St. Louis (18-9-3) defeated the New York Rangers 4-1 on Thursday, improving to 8-1-1 over its last 10 matchups. The Blues have maintained their season average of 2.5 goals in that span, but they've surrendered just 16 - including a minuscule nine in the eight wins. "It's a testament to the team," said Brian Elliott, who made 25 saves Thursday. "They're blocking shots I can't see and ones that I can, there's no second opportunities and they're clearing it out. "That's huge for a goalie. I think both (Jaroslav Halak) and myself can say thanks to the guys in front of us because it makes it a lot easier on us." In addition to recording an NHL-best 1.43 goals-against average, Elliott's .867 winning percentage leads all goalies with at least 15 games played. He's won nine of 10 starts, 13 of 15 overall and his four shutouts are tied for the most in the league. Though Rinne's numbers don't compare, he's rebounded nicely from a career-worst six-game skid (0-5-1) Nov. 19-Dec. 6. Rinne has started every game during Nashville's season-best winning streak, posting a 2.25 GAA - significantly lower than his season mark of 2.54. Rinne was terrific in Thursday's 4-3 come-from-behind win over Detroit, turning away 37 of 40 shots. "I thought (Pekka) was really sharp. I thought he showed a lot battle in him," coach Barry Trotz said. "They know that he's an elite goaltender in this league." While Rinne more than held his own, captain Shea Weber also came through when the Predators (16-11-4) needed him most. After his power-play goal tied the game with under five minutes remaining, Weber scored the game winner with 1:36 to play. "In big moments, you need your top players to step up, and Shea stepped up in a huge way," Trotz said. The Predators, who have scored a power-play goal in seven consecutive games, have converted an NHL-best 14 of 43 chances (32.6 percent) on the man advantage since Nov. 19. Continuing that success, however, could prove difficult versus a Blues team that has killed 16 of its 18 penalties over its last six road games. "We're lucky to be at home right now for this stand. We gotta use that to our advantage," center Nick Spaling said. "Obviously we know they're playing good right now but we just gotta keep going and focus on them." St. Louis, which hasn't won five straight since Dec. 21-31, had taken three consecutive contests in this series before falling 4-2 on Oct. 8. Despite stopping just 12 of 15 shots in that game, Halak is 4-1-1 with a 0.98 GAA and three shutouts over his last six games versus Nashville. Elliott is 1-1-0 with a 2.03 GAA lifetime against the Predators. Rinne, who made 31 saves in the Oct. 8 victory, has gone 8-4-1 with a 1.74 GAA during his last 13 meetings with the Blues. Weber has totaled just one goal and eight assists in his last 21 games against St. Louis.
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