BLUES (40-32-9) at PREDATORS (46-29-6)
St. Louis 6-4-0; Nashville 6-3-1
Sixth and final meeting of the regular season between these Central Division rivals. Nashville has won four of the first five matchups, including each of the last three by a single goal. Patric Hornqvist
and Dustin Boyd lead the Predators in the series with three goals apiece. Brad Boyes, Carlo Colaiacovo
, Andy McDonald
and Alex Steen
each have two goals for the Blues.
This is the final game of the regular season for the Predators, who begin play Saturday as the seventh seed in the Western Conference. They can't fall any farther and could climb as high as fifth if they win, the Kings pick up no more than two points over their final two games and the Red Wings lose their finale Sunday to the Blackhawks.
It's curtains for St. Louis at the end of Saturday night, as the Blues will miss the playoffs following last season's memorable journey. The team was undone by its poor play at the Scottrade Center, though ironically it won its final six games there and finished 18-18-5 at home (though one win actually came in Stockholm as part of a season-opening, two-game series against the Red Wings in which each team played once as the home team).
Veteran forward Keith Tkachuk, who is retiring, assisted on a pair of goals in a 6-3 win over Anaheim on Friday, and St. Louis paid tribute to him following the game.
"It was a special moment as soon as I got on the ice in warmups and it carried on all game," said Tkachuk, who reportedly will not be in the lineup Saturday. "The way it ended, you couldn't have scripted it better. It was incredible."
At one point Nashville had the inside track to finish fifth, but that evaporated with a 5-2 loss in Phoenix on Wednesday. The game Saturday is just the Predators' second over the final eight days of the regular season, so points are at a premium and if they want to finish any higher than seventh this is their last chance to accumulate any.
"We've got one game left and it's a must-win for us if we want to stay up there and not move down," captain Jason Arnott
McDonald has three goals and six assists during a five-game points streak for the Blues. David Perron
has a goal and seven assists during a five-game points streak. Colaiacovo has three goals and six assists in his last nine games.
has goals in consecutive games for the Predators. Ryan Suter
has a goal and two assists in his last two games. Steve Sullivan has two goals and two assists in his last five games.
St. Louis forward T.J. Oshie
missed Friday's game with an upper-body injury. Already out of the lineup were forward Patrik Berglund
(upper body) and defensemen Barret Jackman
(upper body) and Roman Polak
Hornqvist, who leads Nashville with 30 goals, is out with an upper-body injury but could return for the first game of the playoffs. Defenseman Denis Grebeshkov (lower body) remains out.
Tkachuk is one of only four players in NHL history to record over 1,000 points and 2,000 penalty minutes in his career. … Predators forward Jordin Tootoo
has his best career numbers against any team when facing the Blues, six goals and seven assists in 26 games.
The playoff picture is reversed from a season ago: Nashville is in, St. Louis is out. The Predators will try to establish some positive momentum heading into next week.