Predators-Blues Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 08, 2011
The St. Louis Blues feel they can reach the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, but they hope the injury problems that derailed them in 2010-11 aren't already recurring. One week after forward B.J. Crombeen suffered a broken left shoulder blade in the preseason finale, St. Louis opens its season Saturday night against a Nashville Predators team looking to snap a lengthy scoreless stretch at the Scottrade Center. The Blues opened 9-1-2 in 2010-11, but injuries to centers T.J. Oshie and Andy McDonald along with left wing David Perron sidetracked a season that ended 38-33-11. St. Louis finished fourth in the Central Division for the second straight time and missed the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons. Crombeen, who had seven goals and seven assists last season, is out indefinitely after getting hurt last Saturday. There is no timetable for the return of Perron, who missed the final 72 games last season due to a concussion suffered on a hit by San Jose's Joe Thornton. The fourth-year player had a career-high 20 goals along with 27 assists in 2009-10. "I've just felt like it's been a really long summer,'' said winger Chris Stewart, who scored 15 times in 26 games after being acquired from Colorado in January. "I think if we come in and have a healthy year, there's no reason why we can't win our division.'' The addition of veteran forwards Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner and Scott Nichol may provide an offensive boost for a team that had five 20-goal scorers last season. "This is a team that I feel is on that doorstep and has the ability to take that next step into that upper group of teams,'' Langenbrunner said. The Blues will look for another big season from right wing David Backes, who matched a career high with 31 goals while notching a team-best 62 points in 2010-11. Center Patrik Berglund, second to Backes with a career-best 52 points, signed a two-year extension in the offseason. Oshie got a one-year deal worth $2.35 million after recording 34 points in 49 games. "I think that's my biggest motivation, to get to the playoffs, to live up to the hype that's kind of around St. Louis,'' said Oshie, who missed time due to a fractured ankle. Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk each finished with 43 points apiece last season, and the club is hoping the young defensemen can avoid a second-year slide. Pietrangelo tied McDonald for the team lead at plus-18. Jaroslav Halak begins his second season with the club after going 27-21-7 with a 2.48 goals-against average in 2010-11. Three of his seven shutouts - tied for fourth in the league - came against the Predators, including a 24-save effort in a 2-0 season-ending victory April 9. Halak has helped the Blues go 4-0-1 in their last five against Nashville. He hasn't allowed a goal at home to the Predators in the last 126 minutes, 52 seconds. Nashville will try to change that after winning 3-2 in its season opener at Columbus on Friday. Rookies Craig Smith and Matt Halischuk scored, defenseman Ryan Suter added a goal and an assist and Pekka Rinne made 32 saves while battling the stomach flu. "He played well,'' coach Barry Trotz said of last season's Vezina Trophy runner-up. "He probably wanted to get that first one back but he was good the rest of the night.'' Rinne went 1-3-1 with a 1.75 GAA against St. Louis in 2010-11. If he can't go Saturday, Anders Lindback will get the nod. The second-year player stopped 32 shots in his only start against the Blues, a 4-3 home win Oct. 14. St. Louis will try to win its third straight over Nashville at the Scottrade Center following a five-game home losing streak in the series.
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