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Blues, Predators Begin Season Series Tonight

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

ST. LOUIS - The Blues may be on a seven-game win streak, but you wouldn’t know it from talking to any of the players.

“Quite frankly, we haven’t had the mindset that ‘oh my God, seven wins, that’s a great accomplishment,’” said Blues defenseman Ian Cole. “For us, it’s been one game at a time. Continue to win, continue to play well.”

The Blues will need to play well again tonight if they expect to increase the win streak to eight games. The Nashville Predators (8-3-2, 18 points) come to town just one point behind the Blues in the Central Division.

“There’s lots on the line. I know it’s early in the season, but there’s already a battle for that top spot in our division,” said Blues forward Steve Ott. “These points are so crucial, they’re so important. You can see how tight the Western Conference already is. It’s going to be like that the whole year. Crucial points on the table for both teams, and I know we’re expecting the best out of ourselves.”

The Predators bring a new look this season. Peter Laviolette replaced long-time Head Coach Barry Trotz behind the bench. New additions offensively are Mike Ribeiro (10 points) and James Neal (nine points), who rank second and third respectively on the team in scoring. Center Filip Forsberg, who played just 13 games with the Predators last season, already has five goals and eight assists (13 points) this year.

Despite the changes, Cole says the Blues game plan won’t change.

“The game plan is consistent. We try to play the same way, regardless of who we’re playing,” he said. “Whether it’s LA, Chicago, Nashville or New Jersey…for us, when we play the way we know how to play, when we’re able to dictate the game, we’re very successful. That being said, (Nashville) is a very high-powered, very fast team.”

“They play the way Peter wants them to play,” added Head Coach Ken Hitchcock. “It’s pressure in all three zones, and if you’re going to beat them, you’ve got to get beyond the pressure and you’re going to have to be really good at supporting the puck. You’re going to have to really be sharp because they force a lot of turnovers.

“If you’re not sharp, you’re going to end up on your heels like a lot of teams have this year.”

Tonight is the first meeting between the teams this season. The Blues swept the season series with Nashville last season and has won 10 of the last 11 meetings.

Game time is 7 p.m. (FOX Sports Midwest, KMOX 1120 AM).

ELLIOTT STARTS

Brian Elliott will be back in goal tonight for the Blues. He’s won four consecutive games and boasts a 2.06 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage this season.

“He’s solid, he’s consistent, he’s got the right disposition that you need in the League this year,” Hitchcock said. “He’s humble, he’s really hard working, he’s a guy that never cheats you on a day. He’s ready to practice, he’s ready for pregame skates, he’s ready to compete.”

“Both guys have been phenomenal,” Ott said of Elliott and Jake Allen, who has won three straight himself. “We knew this coming in, that we have great goaltending back there. Brian’s really taking control of that crease and played well, and obviously, when Jake’s gone in, he’s done the same. When you have a reliable goaltender like we do in both guys, we’re going to play in front of those guys the same way, and that confidence level makes the game a lot easier.”

BLUE NOTES

David Backes has six points (two goals, four assists) in his last five games against the Predators.

Vladimir Tarasenko has tied a career-high with goals in four consecutive games. He has two goals and three assists in his last four games against Nashville.

The Blues’ seven-game winning streak is the longest active streak in the NHL. It also ties the Anaheim Ducks for the longest win streak this season. Anaheim won seven straight from Oct. 11-24.

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