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Round 2

Blues know tough challenge awaits against Predators

St. Louis wary of what Nashville will bring during Western Conference Second Round

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues know what's ahead of them when they begin the Western Conference Second Round against the Nashville Predators at Scottrade Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

The Blues advanced to the second round after eliminating the Minnesota Wild in five games. But they were watching the Predators' four-game sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks.

"They play good in the neutral zone, they don't give you a lot of room to skate with the puck," Blues center Paul Stastny said of the Predators after an optional practice Monday. "Sometimes you have to be patient, chip it around them and chase it yourself. Defensively, I think they play a tight game. They've always been good, a good home team. [Bridgestone Arena] is always a tough building to play in; it's fun, but a hostile environment. But playoff time, every away game's always a tough one. That's a challenge.

"They've got four lines that are playing well. Their [defense] corps is obviously one of the tops in the League. We've got our hands full. Different challenges. We'll have a different game plan. We'll let [Blues coach Mike Yeo] and the coaches come up with things we can pick out that will make us a better team than them."

A lot has been made of the Predators defeating the Blackhawks at their own game, with speed and transition. But Yeo said there was more than just the Predators' speed element against the Blackhawks.

Video: CHI@NSH, Gm4: Josi wires a one-timer past Crawford

"They obviously checked very well against Chicago, made it very, very difficult on them," he said. "And they are very competitive. That's one thing that really shows up. So it's going to be another great test for us.

"Our last [game against Nashville, a 4-1 win April 2] was a good one. We played well, but when I look back at it, I remember that they were in the middle of a tough stretch. I think they might have been a little fatigued. Other than that, they were a handful for us. We weren't on the right side of things, so certainly we're looking at the video and some areas that we're going to have to be better."

Blues backup goalie Carter Hutton, who spent three seasons with the Predators before signing with the Blues on July 1, said he was surprised but not shocked at the Predators' sweep of the Blackhawks. In 2014-15, Hutton was with the Predators when they finished second in the Central Division but were eliminated in the first round by the third-place Blackhawks, who went on to win the Stanley Cup.

"We lost a couple games in overtime and in that series, I thought when I was with the Predators that they were the better team than the [Blackhawks] all series," he said. "But at that point there, the [Blackhawks'] depth just kind of held them in around games, so it doesn't surprise me. And then last year, [the Predators] won in seven against the [Anaheim] Ducks [in the first round], who were a good team and then going to seven with the [San Jose] Sharks [in the second round].

"So it's not that overly surprising to me. Obviously, the mighty [Blackhawks] have fallen and that's always the big story; they've got a lot of players. But it just goes to show how good this league is. And then you look at the [Toronto Maple Leafs] giving Washington [Capitals] a scare. No one would have really thought that. It's the way the League is."

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