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At the Rink: Predators at Blues

by Louie Korac / NHL.com

ST. LOUIS -- Barret Jackman had this date marked on his calendar for quite some time.

The Nashville Predators defenseman knew there would come a day when he would walk into Scottrade Center as a visiting player for the first time after signing as a free agent this past summer.

When Jackman steps onto the ice Thursday against the St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET; FS-TN, FS-SW), he will be facing the franchise that selected him with the 17th pick of the 1999 NHL Draft. Jackman spent the first 13 seasons of his NHL career in St. Louis.

"It's a little different coming down the ramp and through the parking garage and walking here and stuff and show up to the visitors room instead of the home dressing room," Jackman said. "It's a fun experience. I wasn't sure how fun it was going to be. I'm looking forward to tonight.

"You still have a hockey game to play. It's still a business. I've got a lot of fond memories in this building, but when it comes down to game time, I'm looking for the win as much as they are on the other side."

Jackman, who has a goal and an assist in 30 games, has partnered with Seth Jones for much of the season and been a steadying influence since signing a two-year, $4 million contract.

"Since [Jackman's] been here, he's been terrific," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "After missing training camp (with an elbow injury), I think it took a couple games in the regular season for him to get comfortable and to feel good about his game. After that two- or three-game period at the very beginning, his game has been rock solid since then. He's provided a good partner with Seth, done a good job within the game itself, provided a physical edge to the game that we were expecting him to bring. We're extremely happy with the way he's played."

Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who played long stretches of his career with Jackman in St. Louis, said it will be an emotional game for the 34-year-old veteran.

"I think this is going to be weird for him," Shattenkirk said. "A guy who was considered a long-time and almost career blue note, and now this is his first time walking in and going into the other locker room. I think it's going to be a little strange for him. It'll probably take him a couple shifts to get over that, but once he gets hit or delivers a hit, I think he'll be right back into his old ways."

Forward Colin Wilson, who has one goal and nine points in 26 games, is expected to be back in the Predators lineup after missing four games with a lower-body injury.

"I thought the last couple games before he got hurt, he was using his speed, he was more noticeable," Laviolette said of Wilson.

Here are the projected lineups:

PREDATORS

Filip Forsberg - Calle Jarnkrok - James Neal

Viktor Arvidsson - Mike Ribeiro - Craig Smith

Cody Hodgson - Colton Sissons - Colin Wilson

Eric Nystrom - Paul Gaustad - Austin Watson

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Barret Jackman - Seth Jones

Mattias Ekholm - Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne

Carter Hutton

Injured: Mike Fisher (lower body), Gabriel Bourque (upper body)

Scratched: Miikka Salomaki, Anthony Bitetto

BLUES

Alexander Steen - Paul Stastny - Vladimir Tarasenko

Magnus Paajarvi - David Backes - Troy Brouwer

Robby Fabbri - Jori Lehtera - Dmitrij Jaskin

Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Petteri Lindbohm - Kevin Shattenkirk

Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko

Jake Allen

Brian Elliott

Injured: Jaden Schwartz (ankle), Patrik Berglund (shoulder), Steve Ott (hamstring)

Scratched: Scott Gomez, Robert Bortuzzo

Status report: If Wilson doesn't play, Salomaki will remain in the lineup. … The Blues moved Steen back to the top line after starting Paajarvi there five straight games.

Who's hot: Shattenkirk and Backes each have five-game point streaks. Shattenkirk has 18 points in 16 games (four goals, 14 assists). Steen has a point in five of the past six games (two goals, six assists). … Since Dec. 1, Weber is tied for the NHL lead with the Buffalo Sabres' Rasmus Ristolainen for most points among defensemen with nine. Josi and Shattenkirk are tied for third with eight each.

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