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At the Rink: Predators at Blues

by Louie Korac / NHL.com

ST. LOUIS -- Marcel Goc, the newest member of the St. Louis Blues, has been in this position before.

When the Blues and Central Division rival Nashville Predators face each other Thursday, it will be the 31-year-old center's fifth NHL team. But the shock of being traded never wears off.

Goc, who was traded to the Blues from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for center Maxim Lapierre on Tuesday, will be play with Steve Ott and Ryan Reaves on the Blues fourth line.

"I was a little shocked; it came a little surprising, but the more I start to think about it, this was really good," Goc said. "It got more and more exciting and I'm happy to be here and looking forward to tonight.

"It was always really tough to play against [the Blues]. They're a really tight-checking team. If you get chances, you usually have to earn them or do a couple good plays in a row. That's what made them tough to beat."

The easy part about the transition for Goc was going from one contending team in Pittsburgh to another in St. Louis.

"They have great guys that can make that transition done," Goc said of his newest teammates, none of whom he's played with in his other NHL stops. "If you have a switch, you want to go to a team that's up there as a competitor.

"… I just knew guys from playing against them," Goc added. "Steve was the one I know most. When I came in the League with San Jose, he was in Dallas. I saw him every other day."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said there shouldn't be much difficulty for Goc to transition into a new system.

"I think you've got to decide how much information he already has from the system the other team played," Hitchcock said. "We're lucky because Pittsburgh uses the same terminology, the same system of plays. So there's not going to be a big adjustment. And then it's just getting used to his linemates.

"We're not going to overplay Marcel. We're going to just weed him in. The biggest change is when we get into penalty killing and see how he does it, because that's probably the biggest difference. Pittsburgh kills a little bit different than we do. … He'll be a good add for our group."

The Blues (29-13-4) are one of the final teams to resume their schedule after the All-Star break. Nashville (31-10-5) already played and defeated the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 in overtime on home ice Tuesday.

This is the final game of the regular season between the Blues and Predators, and Nashville has won three of four. All four games have been decided by one goal.

"They've been better than us," Hitchcock said of the Predators, who lead the Blues in the Central Division by five points. "They've won three of them and they've been better. They've played better, they've got leads where we'd chase games. We've pushed hard, they've pushed right back.

"I told the players we're the ones that have to make the adjustments if things continue down the same path and the games are played the same way. We're going to have a difficult challenge ahead of us."

Goalie Martin Brodeur, who announced his retirement Thursday after a 22-year career with the New Jersey Devils and Blues, will drop the ceremonial first puck prior to the game.

Here are the projected lineups:

PREDATORS

Filip Forsberg - Mike Ribeiro - Craig Smith

Colin Wilson - Mike Fisher - James Neal

Matt Cullen - Calle Jarnkrok - Gabriel Bourque

Eric Nystrom - Paul Gaustad - Olli Jokinen

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Mattias Ekholm - Seth Jones

Anton Volchenkov - Victor Bartley

Carter Hutton

Marek Mazanec

Scratched: Taylor Beck

Injured: Pekka Rinne (knee), Ryan Ellis (lower body)

BLUES

Alexander Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie

Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Patrik Berglund - Paul Stastny - Dmitrij Jaskin

Steve Ott - Marcel Goc - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson - Kevin Shattenkirk

Barret Jackman - Ian Cole

Brian Elliott

Jake Allen

Scratched: Joakim Lindstrom, Chris Butler

Injured: Chris Porter (ankle)

Status report: Goc will take all of Lapierre's duties, including penalty kill and faceoffs. … Oshie began practicing Monday for the first time since sustaining a lower-body injury against the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 13 and will be in the lineup. He hasn't missed a game.

Who's hot: The Steen-Backes-Oshie line has 53 points in 12 games. Steen has a 10-game point streak (seven goals, 11 assists), Backes has a seven-game point streak (seven goals, seven assists) and Oshie has eight goals and eight assists in the past 12 games. … Wilson has 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 10 games.

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