NASHVILLE - With Music City still buzzing from this weekend’s NHL All-Star festivities, Blues goalie Brian Elliott expects the atmosphere tonight at Bridgestone Arena to be as good, if not better, than usual.
“The city is probably still electric from the experience this weekend. They’ll be pumped up,” Elliott said. “It’s always a good atmosphere (here), and fans from St. Louis will always go down and take part in it. We always get up for (games here).”
Yes, Blues fans always make the trip down I-24 in droves and the same can be expected for tonight’s 7 p.m. game against the Predators.
The Blues have won four straight against Nashville, including the most recent matchup on Dec. 29 at Scottrade Center, when Alexander Steen scored with 58.2 seconds remaining in overtime to clinch a 4-3 victory for St. Louis. The Blues are 3-0 against the Predators this season and have won seven of their last nine games at Bridgestone Arena.
The Predators, who had a five-game losing streak in January, have reeled off four straight wins and have climbed back into a Wild Card position in the Western Conference. Tonight begins a four-game home stand for Nashville.
The Blues enter tonight’s game having earned points in four of the last five games (3-1-1), but after an eight-day break, the players want to get off to a good start and establish their game early.
“We’re 52 games into the season, we’ve got a little rest, we’re re-energized,” Blues captain David Backes said. “It shouldn’t be much of an issue to get to our game and make sure we don’t give anything away tonight and put in a full 60-minute effort.”
“It’s just about getting that first shift underway and getting your legs underneath you,” Elliott added. “They’ll be dealing with the same thing and for us it’s no different. It’s a tough road game and a tough place to play. That’s what makes it fun.”
Magnus Paajarvi, who sustained an upper-body injury in the Jan. 9 game against Los Angeles, is set to return to the lineup tonight after missing seven games.
Paajarvi skated during the last half of the All-Star break and says his conditioning won’t be an issue.
“(I just need to) simplify everything, really,” Paajarvi said. “Try some early changes and maybe get a bump or two. If I get a hit, that’s the big thing. It’s going to be rusty for sure, but just deal with it and it’ll be fine, I think.”
Paajarvi is expected to start the game with Paul Stastny and Vladimir Tarasenko, but Hitchcock indicated that Paajarvi’s energy level will determine whether he stays there.
“I love playing with them. Their names speak for themselves,” Paajarvi said of the line. “Stastny is an unbelievable player that creates space for you, and Vladi has one of the league’s best shots. We’ve had some success, I think we can have way more.”
Patrik Berglund - Alexander Steen - David Backes
Magnus Paajarvi - Paul Stastny - Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri - Jori Lehtera - Troy Brouwer
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Dmitrij Jaskin
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson - Kevin Shattenkirk
Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko
Tarasenko has 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in 17 career games against the Predators, while Troy Brouwer has nine goals in his last 11 games vs. Nashville.
Alex Pietrangelo and Stastny each have three-game point streaks against the Predators.
After the All-Star break last season, the Blues ranked fifth overall in the League with a .653 win-percentage (22-11-3) in their final 26 games. The Blues have 30 games remaining in the regular season.
After tonight’s game, the Blues will begin a three-game home stand that includes meetings with the San Jose Sharks (Feb. 4), Minnesota Wild (Feb. 6) and Winnipeg Jets (Feb. 9).