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St. Louis final stop on Nashville's long road trek

by David Kalan

PREDATORS (3-2-3) at BLUES (6-2-0)


Season series: The St. Louis Blues have won both meetings this season with the Nashville Predators, including a 3-0 shutout at Scottrade Center on Jan. 24. That win came three days after the Blues topped the Predators, 4-3, in a shootout at Bridgestone Arena.

Big story: The Predators look to continue their steady climb up the standings and can gain ground on a Central Division opponent at the same time when they visit the Blues. The game Tuesday night will also be the last chance Nashville or St. Louis has to take a shot at this particular division rival for quite some time. The two don't meet again until April 9.

Team Scope:

Predators: Nashville endured a bumpy start to both its season and its current seven-game road trip, but the former just might be coming to an end, and the latter definitely is. Tuesday marks the last stop on the Predators' season-long trek, but it also comes on the heels of two huge back-to-back victories. Nashville outlasted the defending champion Kings in Los Angeles in a shootout last Thursday to snap a three-game losing streak and followed that up with a 2-1 shootout win in San Jose against the Pacific-leading Sharks 48 hours later.

The Predators' offense is still dragging along at a downright anemic 1.50 goals per game, but those two wins on the road against top-tier competition could easily be a springboard for what is expected to be one of the better teams in the West. A win in St. Louis on Tuesday and the Predators could be primed for a serious run of good fortune. The opponents don't get much lighter, but eight of Nashville's next 11 games after Tuesday will be back in Music City.

Blues: St. Louis is in an unusual place. The Blues, for just the second time this season, are coming off a loss heading into their showdown with Nashville, after a hat trick by Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg and a three-goal third period for the Red Wings sent the Blues home from the Motor City as 5-3 losers. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Blues, who despite their impressive start remain in second place in the Central behind Chicago, but the biggest concern for St. Louis after Friday's game is probably not the loss on the schedule so much as the one on the roster.

Jaroslav Halak left the game in the first period after a hard shot hit his mask and gave him a bloody lip, but the Slovak netminder was placed on injured reserve Sunday with what coach Ken Hitchcock called a "groin strain." While Brian Elliott has been a more than able goalie in tandem with Halak since he came to St. Louis, Halak's 3-0-0 record and 2.10 goals-against average will be missed if the groin strain lingers, as will his League-leading two shutouts.

Who's hot: It's tough to win shootouts without a top-notch goalie, and Pekka Rinne has been that for Nashville in its last two games. While the offense has continued to struggle, Rinne has given up just two goals in 51 shots against. … Patrik Berglund has begun heating up for the Blues in a big way, scoring four goals and adding two assists in his last five games.

Injury report: Martin Erat (lower body) is questionable for Nashville. … Halak's strained groin is the lone injury concern for St. Louis.

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