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Blues Look for Consistency Tonight vs. Preds

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

ST. LOUIS - In addition to two points of course, the Blues are looking for one thing in tonight’s game vs. Nashville: consistency.

Since mid-November, the Blues haven’t had much consistency save for a three-game winning streak from Dec. 15-20. Instead, the club has been stuck in a win one / lose one kind-of-rut.

“It’s what every team is searching for: a consistent 60-minute effort,” Blues captain David Backes said. “It’s just one of those things where it’s a long season and I think we’ve looked for other ways to play. We’ve shown ourselves (our game is) a tough way to play, but it’s very successful when we play our way. When we’re on our page, we’re going to love our results. Finding that consistency, I think, is the key to pulling away and catching Dallas and pulling away with the Central Division.

“You can’t dwell on the past, you can’t change that,” Backes added. “We look at it going forward.”

Tonight, the Blues will host a Predators team that it’s beaten twice this season: 4-0 on Nov. 7 at Bridgestone Arena and 2-1 on Dec. 17 at Scottrade Center.

The Predators defeated the New York Rangers 5-3 last night at Bridgestone Arena. James Neal scored twice and Filip Forsberg extended his point streak to five games with a power-play goal. The Predators have won three of their last four games.

“We know what to expect from them. They’ve always been a pretty structured, hard-working team,” said Blues forward Kyle Brodziak, who will return to the lineup tonight. “They’ve got a lot of guys that can really skate with the puck on their team. We know it’s going to be a challenge so we have to make sure to bring our A-game. That will give us the best opportunity to win.”

Entering tonight’s game, the Blues have won three straight games against the Predators and five of the last six meetings at Scottrade Center.

The puck drops at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Network and KMOX 1120 AM.

BRODZIAK RETURNS

Brodziak will be centering the fourth line tonight after after missing five games with a skate cut.

“It was a little bit of a freak thing,” Brodziak said after the morning skate. “Just a shin pad moved out of the way right at the wrong time I guess. I just got the heel of the skate, it clipped my knee. But at the end of the day, I was pretty lucky it didn’t cause any more damage than it did.”

Brodziak’s return will bring some identity back to the fourth line, which has seen its share of changes since Brodziak’s injury. Scottie Upshall, Dmitrij Jaskin, Scott Gomez and Jordan Caron have all seen time on the line in Brodziak’s absence.

“The last couple games, I’ve had six different linemates,” Ryan Reaves said. “I’m familiar with Brodzy and the way he plays at center. He brings a little patience down low in our end, and a little skill in their end. I think the biggest thing is we’re familiar with each other.”

GOMEZ ON WAIVERS

Hitchcock acknowledged Tuesday that Gomez was placed on waivers earlier this morning.

“When we went down with all those injuries, he was good early,” Hitchcock said. “It’s not fair for him to come and play a role he’s never played before. Hopefully somebody picks him up and he can play a Top-6 (or) Top-9 role and have that support. With Brodziak back in, and obviously (Patrik) Berglund coming back in, he’s a player that would just be waiting for injury and that could sometimes be a long wait.”

Gomez has played in 21 games this season, registering one goal and seven assists.

PROJECTED LINES

Forwards

Magnus Paajarvi - Paul Stastny - Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexander Steen - David Backes - Troy Brouwer

Robby Fabbri - Jori Lehtera - Dmitrij Jaskin

Jordan Caron - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves

Defense

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Colton Parayko - Kevin Shattenkirk

Robert Bortuzzo - Carl Gunnarsson

Goalie

Jake Allen

BLUE NOTES

Jake Allen will start in goal tonight. Against Nashville this season, he has a 2-0-0 record, a 0.50 goals-against average and a 45-save shutout in the first meeting on Nov. 7. Overall, he is unbeaten in four career appearances against Nashville.

Carl Gunnarsson has four points (one goal, three assists) in his last five games against the Predators, including a plus-7 rating in that stretch.

Vladimir Tarasenko has 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in 16 career games against the Predators, while Troy Brouwer has nine goals in his last 10 games against Nashville.

The Blues are a League-best 16-5-0 against Western Conference teams this season.

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