For the second time in three days the Nashville Predators will have an opportunity to make up ground on a team that they are chasing in the Central Division standings when they take on the St. Louis Blues tonight at 7 p.m. at the Bridgestone Arena (FS-TN).
The Predators come into the game with a four game winning streak on the line after they beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 in a huge comeback win on Thursday night. The Predators currently sit in seventh place in the Western Conference with 36 points.
The Blues enter tonight's contest as one of the hottest teams in the NHL, having won four in a row and sporting a 12-2-3 record since Ken Hitchcock took over the coaching reigns from Davis Payne on November 8. The Blues are three points ahead of the Predators with 39 points and reside in fifth place in the West.
The Predators will have their work cut out for them as they will face Jaroslav Halak (5-7-3, 2.37, .903) who threw shutouts at the Preds three times last season, becoming the first goalie to shutout the same opponent three times in a season sin Jacques Plante blanked the Flyers a trio of times in the 1969-70 campaign.
Halak will be pleased to get the work since back-up Brian Elliott (13-2-0, 1.43, .948) has launched himself into Vezina consideration and has been getting most of the recent starts for the Blues. In his career versus the Preds, Halak is 6-2-1, 1.85, .926.
The Predators are expected to counter with Pekka Rinne (14-9-4, 2.54, .921). He has had success in his career against the Blues (9-5-2, 2.02, .927) in spite of Halak's performance last season.
Special teams could be the key in tonight's contest. The Predators are fourth in the NHL (21.5%) on the power play while the Blues are dead last (10.8%). The Blues are a little better on the penalty kill (21st, 81.1%) but are not as strong as the Preds (15th, 82.7%).
It should be an interesting game to watch as it is only the second meeting of the year between the two teams and it will be the first time the Preds have faced the Hitchcock coached version of the Blues. The Preds did beat St. Louis 4-2 in their home opener on October 8.
After tonight's game, the Predators will brace themselves for a tough Christmas week schedule that includes traveling to Washington on Tuesday, playing Columbus at home on Thursday, and then heading to Dallas on Friday before breaking for two days for the holiday.
Yesterday on Smashville on the Glass podcast we featured Jeremy Rutherford from the St. Louis Post Dispatch with a preview of tonight's game.
For other Predator previews go to Ryan Porth, Predatorial, The Tennessean, and Predators.com.
For Blues perspectives, check out Blues.com, Post-Dispatch, St. Louis Game Time, BlueNote Zone, Frozen Notes, Belleville Sports, In the Slot, Bleedin' Blue, and Andy Strickland.
For game notes from NHL Media Services click here.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass