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Preview: Predators at Blues

Nashville's James Neal has six-game goal streak; Alexander Steen out for St. Louis

by Louie Korac / NHL.com Correspondent

PREDATORS (7-6-3) at BLUES (9-6-3)

8 p.m. ET; FS-MW, FS-TN, NHL.TV

 

Predators team scope

Nashville Predators right wing James Neal has a chance to set the franchise record for longest goal-scoring streak. Neal has scored in a career-high six straight games; he shares the record with teammate Filip Forsberg, Patric Hornqvist, Alexander Radulov, and J.P. Dumont. "I think being patient with your game, obviously getting in good areas is going to help you score goals," said Neal, who has seven goals during the streak and is one assist shy of 200 for his career. "Linemates as well. Playing with [Ryan Johansen] is great. He has a great mind for the game and he can find you in different places on the ice. [Viktor Arvidsson] as well … He's been playing great hockey." Johansen said it's been easy playing with Neal. "He's getting pucks in scoring areas, he's finding ways to make them count," Johansen said. "He was one of the top two or three guys in the League in shots in the first six games and he didn't have a goal," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said of Neal. "I think goal scorers at times, they just find the puck going in, but I liked the way he played the first five or six games." The Predators have points in seven of the past eight games (5-1-2) and wrap up a three-game trip.

 

Blues team scope

The St. Louis Blues will welcome back defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who has missed the past 10 games with a lower-body injury. Right wing Ty Rattie will play for the second time this season because forward Alexander Steen is out for a second straight game with an undisclosed injury. Bortuzzo was injured Oct. 27 against the Detroit Red Wings but has passed all tests skating with the team this week. Rattie will play for the first time since Oct. 18. "I feel excited, happy," he said. "I felt good this morning, happy to be in the lineup. If I have the same energy I had this morning, I think I'll have a high-energy game." Coach Ken Hitchcock is looking for someone to grab a spot on the forward lines. "It's tryouts," Hitchcock said. "It's not the flip of [Nail Yakupov] and Rattie. Rattie has paid a price, gone down, played in the American Hockey League, got on the buses, and we want to see what he does. Now's the time to look, but eventually, we're going to have to make a determination on who's in and who's out on a regular basis. We're still experimenting there with those two guys." Steen was injured on Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres; he did not skate Saturday. "He's a lot better today and he's literally day-to-day," Hitchcock said of Steen. "We'll see how he looks [Sunday] with us. Hopefully he joins us real quick here. He's a lot better today, good sign." The Blues are 7-1-2 at home, including 5-0-2 in their past seven games at Scottrade Center.

 

Predators projected lineup

Viktor Arvidsson -- Ryan Johansen -- James Neal

Filip Forsberg -- Mike Ribeiro -- Craig Smith

Colin Wilson -- Mike Fisher -- Pontus Aberg

Colton Sissons -- Calle Jarnkrok -- Austin Watson

Roman Josi -- Ryan Ellis

Mattias Ekholm -- P.K. Subban

Matt Irwin -- Yannick Weber

Pekka Rinne

Marek Mazanec

Scratched: Matt Carle, Cody Bass

Injured: Miikka Salomaki (upper body)

 

Blues projected lineup

Jaden Schwartz -- Paul Stastny -- David Perron

Robby Fabbri -- Jori Lehtera -- Vladimir Tarasenko

Dmitrij Jaskin -- Patrik Berglund -- Ty Rattie

Scottie Upshall -- Kyle Brodziak -- Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester -- Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson -- Kevin Shattenkirk

Colton Parayko -- Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Allen

Carter Hutton

Scratched: Nail Yakupov, Petteri Lindbohm

Injured: Joel Edmundson (upper body)

 

Status report

Nashville assigned defenseman Anthony Bitetto to Milwaukee of the AHL on a conditioning assignment. Bitetto hasn't played since Oct. 11 because of an upper-body injury. Wilson was on the ice late for the morning skate but was part of line rushes. … Perron will move to the top line and Jaskin will slide down to the third line after the two were flipped during a 3-2 win against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday. Rattie will play in place of Yakupov, who will be a healthy scratch for the fifth time in eight games. Lindbohm will be a healthy scratch with Bortuzzo returning. Edmundson took part in the morning skate but is not ready to return.

 

Who's hot

Rinne is 5-0-2 with a 1.12 goals-against average and .960 save percentage in November. Forsberg has a goal and four assists in the past five games. ... Despite having his six-game point streak come to an end Thursday, Tarasenko has two goals and seven assists in his past seven games. Perron has a three-game point streak (one goal, four assists).

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