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'NHL on NBC': 5 Storylines

Blues go for sixth straight win, home-and-home sweep of Predators

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / NHL.com Managing Editor

The St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators will bring back a relic of old-time hockey when they play at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday in an "NHL on NBC" game (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, TVAS).

 

[RELATED: Blues top Predators for fifth straight win]

 

The Blues and Predators will play the second game of a home-and-home series on back-to-back days, the kind of thing that was common in the NHL's Original Six era but isn't seen much today. The Blues will try for a sweep after holding off the Predators for a 3-2 home win Saturday.

Here are 5 storylines to keep an eye on:

 

Here come the Blues

Less than six weeks ago, on Jan. 3, the Blues were last among the NHL's 31 teams and were among the season's biggest disappointments. But since then, they've been among the NHL's best teams. They are 11-4-1 in their past 16 games since hitting bottom and hold the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. St. Louis (26-22-5) has won five in a row, including four straight since resuming play after Honda 2019 NHL All-Star Weekend and their mandatory five-day break. Even better, they have games in hand on every team that's chasing them, as well as on the Minnesota Wild (27-23-5), who are two points ahead of them and hold the first wild card.

Video: NSH@STL: Dunn tucks in own rebound

 

Jordan rules

So what happened to the Blues? Without a doubt, their season turned around Jan. 7 when rookie goalie Jordan Binnington made his first NHL start and made 25 saves in a 3-0 victory at the Philadelphia Flyers. One month later, Binnington has moved past Jake Allen as the unquestioned No. 1 for St. Louis. He is 9-1-1 in 11 starts after making 29 saves against Nashville on Saturday. The 25-year-old has given the Blues the kind of confidence that they showed only in fits and starts with Allen. Binnington's play has helped his teammates relax and play instead of worrying about giving up a goal every time the opposition gets over the blue line. That confidence has spilled over into every other aspect of their game. The only question for coach Craig Berube is how much he wants to play Binnington during the last two months of the season.

 

Tarasenko warming up

Binnington's arrival has coincided with Vladimir Tarasenko rediscovering his scoring touch. Since the rookie goalie's first start, the forward has 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in 14 games, including nine points (four goals, five assists) during a seven-game point streak. He scored his 19th goal of the season Saturday and is looking more like the player who has carried the offense for the past few seasons; he has scored at least 33 goals and finished with at least 66 points in each of the past four seasons.

Video: NSH@STL: Schenn, Tarasenko connect for pretty goal

 

Predators glad for quick turnaround

Ask the Predators why they came up a goal short Saturday and they'll say the Blues worked harder, especially in the first two periods, when St. Louis built leads of 2-0 and 3-1. "They were faster," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "We didn't play the game fast enough, didn't have enough attitude in the game, and not enough guys on the rope either. It just wasn't good; wasn't a good day." The Predators get an immediate chance to get even. "It's really awesome, to be honest," defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. "This one stings, it's a Central Division loss, so to be able to get the chance to get them back tomorrow is obviously something that we're looking forward to."

 

Nashville's new look

The Predators decided this week that they needed more size, so they acquired forwards Brian Boyle and Cody McLeod in trades with the New Jersey Devils (Boyle) and New York Rangers (McLeod). Boyle (6-foot-6) brings size, experience and a net-front presence on the power play to a team that's tied with the Montreal Canadiens for last in the NHL with the man-advantage (13.3 percent). McLeod (6-foot-2) was immensely popular in Nashville until the Predators lost him on waivers to the Rangers last season. McLeod was beloved by his teammates in his first go-round in Nashville during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, and he'll provide physicality and a solid locker room presence to more than overcome any lack of offensive ability. Boyle and McLeod will make the Predators bigger and tougher to play against.

Video: Stevens on Predators acquiring Boyle and McLeod

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