Blues-Predators Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 04, 2012
Fantastic play at home has rocketed the St. Louis Blues into the upper echelon of the Western Conference standings, but to stay there they'll need to play much better on the road. They've had trouble against the Nashville Predators no matter where the game has taken place. The Blues open a three-game trip Saturday night with a visit to Nashville, where they'll try to earn their first win of the season against a Predators club that's won 10 of 12 overall. These teams have been two of the NHL's hottest over the past two months. The Blues' 16-4-4 mark since Dec. 6 gives them the league's top winning percentage in that span, while the Predators' 19 wins over the same stretch are tied with Detroit for the most in the NHL. A favorable schedule has aided St. Louis (30-13-7). The Blues have played 17 of their last 24 games at home, going 14-0-3 in those contests on their own ice. The Blues avoided a third straight loss overall Friday night, beating Los Angeles 1-0 at home behind a goal from Jamie Langenbrunner and 22 saves from Jaroslav Halak. They improved to 22-3-4 on the season in St. Louis - compared with an 8-10-3 mark on the road - and moved into a tie with Vancouver for the second-most points in the West with 67. It was the fifth shutout of the season for Halak, and the fourth in his last seven starts. "The defense was great, it always is,'' Halak said. "Some nights I need our guys to step up and score some goals but that wasn't the case. The defense came up strong.'' The remaining schedule doesn't appear nearly as friendly for the Blues, who will play 20 of their remaining 32 contests away from home. Their first three-game trip since Nov. 27-Dec. 2 begins with a visit to Nashville (31-17-4), which has won all three meetings with St. Louis so far this season - two of them decided 2-1 in shootouts. "It's a good team and they've been playing really well,'' Predators goalie Pekka Rinne said of the Blues after the most recent matchup, a 2-1 shootout win Dec. 30 in St. Louis. "It's one of those teams, we're going to battle to the end. We've been playing solid against them all three games. We always seem to play well against this team.'' Rinne in particular always seems to play well against St. Louis. He's 11-5-2 with a 1.89 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage lifetime versus the Blues, and has stopped 105 of 109 shots while manning the net in all three matchups this season. Rinne, who has also won 10 straight starts overall and 13 of his last 14, should be in net again Saturday after resting in favor of Anders Lindback in Thursday's 4-1 loss at Philadelphia. Ryan Suter scored the lone goal Thursday for the Predators, who failed to extend their winning streak to six games after recording five straight victories twice in the month of January. Nashville has outscored the opposition 21-9 during a five-game home winning streak, improving to 16-7-3 on the season at Bridgestone Arena.
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