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At the Rink: Blues at Predators

by Robby Stanley / NHL.com

NASHVILLE -- The St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators are expecting a physical battle Thursday at Bridgestone Arena.

The two previous games between St. Louis and Nashville were taxing games physically and each was a one-goal game. Nashville is preparing for the same type of close game Thursday.

"I think every time you play the St. Louis Blues, they’re a physical team," Predators defenseman Roman Josi said. "They're a big team with a lot of physical forwards and big defense, so they're playing a man's game. It's going to be the same tonight."

Games between the Blues and Predators have been intense the past few seasons regardless of the records. The strong start this season by the Predators has made the games even more intense.

"Regardless of how their season has been going, it's always been a battle between us and them," Blues defenseman Ian Cole said. "Especially playing here at Bridgestone, it's always very heated. They're really flying well this year. So not only will it be heated and physical, but I'm sure it will be a very skillful game too. I'm sure it will be a lot of fun."

The winner of the game take the lead in the Central Division.

Martin Brodeur is expected to make his first start in goal for the Blues.

"I think there is going to be a lot of smart plays to start the game," Cole said. "Smart plays, territorial plays to see who is going to crack first."

Nashville has won six home games in a row. Their last home defeat was Oct. 25, a 3-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Nashville credits strong starts as a big reason for its home-ice success.

"I think we just start really well at home," Josi said. "We come out with a lot of energy and obviously the fans give us a lot of energy. It's fun playing in front of our home fans. I think it's important that tonight we come out with a lot of energy and try to take it to them in the first period and go from there."

St. Louis lost 4-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday. Cole scored for the Blues. The game was tied going into the third period, but the Blackhawks scored three times in the final 20 minutes.

"We were in a good spot going into the third period 1-1 against a very good team in a very tough building to play in," Cole said. "You couldn’t really ask for a better situation other than being up by four goals. They came in and scored three goals in like five minutes, so it was definitely frustrating. Definitely irritated with how we played. It's one of those things where we need to be way better than that. We are better than that and we know that, and we need to come out here and show it tonight."

Nashville forward James Neal has been held without a point in his past seven games. Neal's last point was a goal against the Winnipeg Jets on Nov. 15.

Here are the projected lineups:

BLUES

Alexander Steen - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Jaden Schwartz - Paul Stastny - T.J. Oshie

Steve Ott - Patrik Berglund - David Backes

Chris Porter - Maxim Lapierre - Ryan Reaves

Barret Jackman - Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson - Kevin Shattenkirk

Petteri Lindbohm - Ian Cole

Martin Brodeur

Jake Allen

Scratched: Joakim Lindstrom, Magnus Paajarvi, Chris Butler

Injured: Brian Elliott (lower body), Jay Bouwmeester (groin)

PREDATORS

Filip Forsberg - Mike Ribeiro - James Neal

Colin Wilson - Calle Jarnkrok - Craig Smith

Olli Jokinen - Mike Fisher - Matt Cullen

Eric Nystrom - Paul Gaustad - Taylor Beck

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Anton Volchenkov - Seth Jones

Mattias Ekholm - Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne

Carter Hutton

Scratched: Victor Bartley, Gabriel Bourque

Injured: Derek Roy (upper body), Viktor Stalberg (lower body)

Status report: The teams held optional morning skates so there were no line rushes. … Bourque came off the ice before Beck and could be in the Predators lineup for the first time since Nov. 13 against the Blues. ... The Blues recalled Lindbohm from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League on Thursday. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Lindbohm is expected play but did not specify who would come out of the lineup. Lindbohm is a left-shot defender, making Butler an option to sit.

Who’s hot: Tarasenko has two goals and one assist in his past three games. … Ribeiro has two goals in the past two games.

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