With the improvement they have shown recently, this may be the perfect time for the St. Louis Blues to end a 12-game losing streak to the Nashville Predators.
The Blues look to post their first win against the Predators in nearly three years Saturday when the Central Division rivals meet at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.
St. Louis (13-20-7) has not beaten Nashville (26-11-3) since a 4-1 victory on April 3, 2004, but has gained a point in each of the last three meetings.
The Predators won the first matchup this season 5-4 in regulation before winning twice in a shootout sandwiched around a 2-1 overtime victory on Dec. 17.
Nashville coach Barry Trotz and the Predators are very familiar with the Blues, having already faced them three times since Andy Murray replaced Mike Kitchen as head coach on Dec. 11.
"I think this is going to be the norm when we play St. Louis," Trotz said after his team's 3-2 shootout win on Dec. 26. "St. Louis has played with a lot of purpose in their game. They have a good work ethic. They are a veteran team. They don't beat themselves. They are playing the way they are capable of playing. They don't have any passengers."
Manny Legace recorded his second shutout in three games Thursday, leading the Blues to a 2-0 victory over visiting Chicago.
Legace stopped 14 first-period shots before St. Louis limited the Blackhawks to 14 shots over the final 40 minutes. Legace is 6-1-3 with a 1.57 goals-against average and two shutouts in his last 10 starts.
St. Louis has only one regulation loss in its last eight games (6-1-1) and is 6-3-3 under Murray.
"Winning games is our job," right wing Bill Guerin said. "You win a game tonight, but we're only at the halfway point. We're still in a pretty big ditch that we dug earlier in the year. We're excited about the fact that we're getting better, but we have to keep it in perspective and keep getting better."
The coaching change has helped make the Blues a much better defensive team. They have allowed 22 goals in 12 games under Murray after giving up 46 in the previous 12 contests.
That commitment to defense has been evident at the start of every game since Murray took over.
St. Louis has not allowed a first-period goal in 12 straight games, matching the 1974-75 Los Angeles Kings for the longest streak in league history.
Nashville (27-11-3) regained sole possession of first place in the Central with an 8-3 rout of the Blackhawks on Friday.
Paul Kariya had a goal and three assists, and Scott Hartnell scored twice for the Predators, who improved to 9-3 in their last 12 games.
"It was a big win for us after the last game versus Colorado (a 5-3 loss on Monday)," Kariya said. "We got back to playing Predators hockey. One of our big attributes is our team speed and we use that to force defensemen to turn the puck over. I thought we did a real good job of that."
Chris Mason made 35 saves in his 20th straight start. He is 13-6-1 since taking over the starting job while Tomas Vokoun recovers from torn ligaments in his left thumb. Mason has been helped by an offense that has scored 57 goals in his 13 victories.
Kariya has been red hot with seven goals and 11 assists in his last 11 games.