Preview: Blues at Predators
The St. Louis Blues have climbed from last place in the Western Conference to a playoff position in fewer than six weeks and go after sixth straight win as they try for the back-to-back sweep of the Predators on Sunday afternoon in Nashville. The Blues scored twice in the first period and held off a rally to knock off the Predators 3-2 on Saturday at home to earn at least a point for the 11th time in their last dozen contests (9-1-2).
“I think everyone’s really working together and really showing that we care about each other on the ice. That comes with hard work, too,” St. Louis defenseman Vince Dunn told reporters after scoring his seventh goal Saturday. “When we’re working as a whole, we’re going to see better results individually and as a team, and I think that’s really starting to show.” The Blues have won the last two in the series after dropping six in a row, including a playoff contest, against a Nashville team that lost for only the second time in seven games Saturday and failed in its chance to take over first place in the Central Division. The Predators outshot St. Louis 12-3 in the third period and got within one on center Ryan Johansen’s goal with 1:15 to go, but could not recover from a disappointing first 40 minutes. “You could see in the first two periods we weren’t skating. We weren’t first to pucks, or battling, or dictating the play,” Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm told Fox Sports Tennessee. “. … That’s something we really have to focus on (Sunday).”
TV: 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, TVA
ABOUT THE BLUES (26-22-5): Vladimir Tarasenko scored Saturday to pull within one of his sixth straight season with at least 20 goals, and the Russian right wing has recorded nine points in his past seven contests. Center Ryan O’Reilly was kept off the scoresheet in the last two games, but owns 11 of his team-high 53 points in the past 10 contests, while forward Brayden Schenn boasts a goal and six assists in his past five outings. Rookie Jordan Binnington (29 saves) earned his ninth win in 11 decisions (9-1-1) on Saturday, but could give way to Jake Allen (15-15-4) in the second of a back-to-back although coach Craig Berube was undecided after the game.
ABOUT THE PREDATORS (33-20-4): Johansen has registered 12 of his team-best 48 points in the last 11 games and All-Star defenseman Roman Josi had an assist Saturday to give him seven of his 43 points in the past five contests. Ekholm scored his seventh goal Saturday to pull within one of his first 40-point season while forward Filip Forsberg posted an assist - his fifth in five games to go along with his 19th goal Tuesday against Arizona. Veteran Pekka Rinne (19-14-3) took the loss in net Saturday after stopping 30-of-33 shots and that could hand Sunday’s start to backup Juuse Saros (14-6-1), who has allowed four goals in three consecutive victories.
1. The Predators scored on their only power-play chance Saturday after going 1-for-37 in their previous 11 contests.
2. St. Louis LW David Perron (upper body) and D Carl Gunnarsson (lower body) are not expected to return the lineup Sunday.
3. Nashville C Brian Boyle has two shots and a minus-3 rating in his first two games since being acquired from New Jersey.
PREDICTION: Predators 4, Blues 3