By Ed Neely
It’s time for the Nashville Predators to shake off their past three games and bring on the St Louis Blues. The Preds are coming off a few days rest and face the Blues at 7:00 pm CST tonight in the Scottrade Center. The Blues (23-13-2, 48 points) are the top team in the Central Division and sit one point ahead of the Predators (21-9-5, 47 points) but the Preds have three games in hand over the Blues.
The Preds held a morning skate today in which Scott Hartnell skated with Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson on the top line. This is, perhaps, because Hartnell is so good in front of the net and they are counting on Joey to get puck to both him and Arvi. The second line, or more likely a 1B, was the vaunted grouping of Kyle Turris, Kevin Fiala and Craig Smith. Forsberg skated with the other two Swedes, Calle Jarnkrok and Pontus Aberg, in what was a productive line for the few games they spent together. The fourth line was made up of Colton Sissons, Nick Bonino and Austin Watson.
The real question is whether the Preds can stay out of the penalty box. Nashville leads the league in times short-handed. While the Blues are 24th in the league in Power Play percentage, they are still dangerous and can make the Preds pay for stupid penalties. The real damage that penalties cause is that it tires out top players and reduces 5 on 5 playing time where the Preds stand a better chance of putting pucks in the net.
The Preds are likely to face Carter Hutton in net tonight. Hutton is leading the league in Save percentage among goalies who have at least 20 starts. Since he was the Preds #2 for three years, the guys know many of his tendencies and my have better luck against him than they have against the past three opponents. Hutton has two previous career starts against the Predators and he has yet to come out with a point. Let’s just hope this trend continues.
It is likely that the Predators will start Pekka Rinne in goal tonight in order to get him back on track. Ryan Ellis continues to skate without a no-contact jersey and appears to be on track for a January 2nd return.
Prediction: Preds 3, Blues 2