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Predators start do-or-die homestand against Blues

by Brian Hunter

BLUES (21-14-2) at PREDATORS (15-17-8)


Last 10: St. Louis 6-4-0; Nashville 4-4-2

Season series: Fourth and final meeting of the regular season between these Central Division rivals. The Blues took the first two, but the Predators routed them 6-1 in St. Louis on Feb. 5, the most recent matchup.

Big story: The Blues' goaltending seems to have stabilized with the re-emergence of veteran Brian Elliott and the strong play of rookie Jake Allen. They're not a lock for the Stanley Cup Playoffs just yet, but it's the Predators who are in the truly precarious position -- five points out of eighth, with five teams to climb over to get there and only eight regular-season games left.

Team Scope:

Blues: An injury to Jaroslav Halak led St. Louis to bring Elliott back from its American Hockey League affiliate in Peoria, where he'd been sent to get some playing time and hopefully work out the kinks that led to him posting a bloated 3.57 goals-against average and paltry .849 save percentage in his first nine appearances of the season. It seems to have paid off, as Elliott hasn't lost since returning. He stopped all 28 shots he faced in Detroit on Sunday afternoon and made Chris Porter's second-period goal stand up as the Blues edged the Red Wings, 1-0.

"We've played a good past couple of games and we didn't see any movement in the standings because other teams were doing their jobs, too," Elliott said. "Obviously getting a win against these guys bumps us up and we have to keep building on that. We don't have much time left."

Predators: On March 26, Nashville was tied for eighth in the Western Conference after edging Edmonton the previous night for its third consecutive victory. Since then, the Predators have lost six of seven to plummet down to 13th place. They're also tied for the most games played of any NHL team, leaving little margin for error the remainder of the way. This is the start of a four-game homestand, and coming off a weekend sweep at the hands of the Blackhawks, the Predators may have to run the table on it to remain in the race.

"We've just got to play hard and see what happens," coach Barry Trotz said. "Chances are very remote, but you've got to play hard. You're not going to do anybody any favors if you don't. You just embarrass yourself."

Who's hot: Elliott has stopped 80 of 84 shots (.952 save percentage) since returning to the Blues. … David Legwand has four goals and four assists in the past seven games for the Predators.

Injury report: St. Louis forward Andy McDonald missed Sunday's game with flu-like symptoms. Forward Scott Nichol (soreness) is also day-to-day. Halak (lower body) is likely out until near the end of the regular season. Forward T.J. Oshie (foot) is on injured reserve. … Nashville was without forwards Paul Gaustad (upper body), Gabriel Bourque (upper body) and Mike Fisher (hand) on Sunday. Forward Brandon Yip (lower body) is also day-to-day. Forward Colin Wilson (upper body) is on injured reserve.

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