Predators and Blues put winning streaks on the line
Friday, 12.16.2011 / 10:38 AMBLUES (18-9-3) at PREDATORS (16-11-4)
TV: FS-Midwest (HD), FS-Tennessee (HD)
St. Louis 8-1-1; Nashville 6-4-0
This is the second of six meetings between these Central Division rivals. Nashville handed St. Louis a 4-2 loss in the Blues' home opener on Oct. 8, the Predators benefitting from two David Legwand
goals and 31 saves from Pekka Rinne
Two teams separated by just three points in the competitive Central Division each put a four-game winning streak on the line Saturday at Bridgestone Arena. Nashville looks to end a four-game homestand undefeated after scoring two goals in the third to ground the Detroit Red Wings, 4-3, on Thursday. That same night, St. Louis ended a five-game home swing 4-1-0 after handling the New York Rangers, 4-1, behind another gem from goalie Brian Elliott
Yes, that Brian Elliott
. The guy who Ottawa passed off to Colorado last season after going 59-45-15 over pieces of four seasons. The same one who registered an abysmal 2-8-1 mark for the Avalanche before being discarded once again. This season, Elliott is 13-2-0. He has the best goals-against average (1.43) and best save percentage in the League (.948) and is tied for the League lead with four shutouts.
Still, after his most recent performance -- a 25-save muting of the typically prolific Rangers -- Elliott was quick to credit the team defensive effort that is a trademark of a Ken Hitchcock-coached team.
"It's a testament to the team," Elliott said. "They're blocking shots I can't see and ones that I can, there's no second opportunities and they're clearing it out.
"That's huge for a goalie. I think both [Jaroslav Halak
] and myself can say thanks to the guys in front of us because it makes it a lot easier on us."
On Thursday against Detroit, Nashville captain Shea Weber
proved just as vital to his team as Elliott is to St. Louis. The defenseman scored two goals late in regulation to turn a one-goal deficit into a win by the same margin. Even as the Red Wings piled on with a 40-21 advantage in shots, Weber and the Predators remained stout and waited their turn. When it finally came in the form of a Nashville power play, the Preds were down 3-2 with under five minutes to play. Undeterred, Weber found space near the high slot and ripped a well-placed shot past a shielded Jimmy Howard.
"When we got that power play, we knew we were going to have to score because we weren't going to get another one," Weber said. "We were fortunate enough to get one and then we used the momentum from the crowd after that."
The Predators have at least one power-play goal in their last seven games, and are 14-for-43 over their last 13.
Who's Hot: David Perron
has made an immediate impact for St. Louis since returning from injury, with 2 goals and 2 assists in five games. … After a rough patch, Rinne has been in net for each of Nashville's four win, saving 108 of 114 shots for a .947 save percentage.
Blues winger Matt D'Agostini
is nursing an upper-body injury, but played Thursday against Detroit. Vladimir Sobotka
(left ankle), Kent Huskins
(left ankle), Andy McDonald
(concussion) and B.J. Crombeen
(broken left scapula) are all on injured reserve.
For all of St. Louis' defensive-mindedness, its penalty kill sits 21st in the League (81.1 percent). That could spell trouble against Nashville's third-ranked -- and recently highly-opportune -- man-advantage unit, which is converting 21.5 percent of the time.
For all their similarities, Nashville and St. Louis diverge on one key element: early leads.
"We've been playing well with leads. We took the lead, put it in our back pocket and played the rest of the game. I don't think we played their game. We kept taking it to them." -- St. Louis' Elliott on his team's early 2-0 advantage against New York
"We want to play with the lead a little more. We don't want to have to come back in every game we play." -- Nashville's Legwand on his team’s comeback from two goals down against Detroit