The Nashville Predators are looking for their first road winning streak of the season as they conclude their three-game trip in St. Louis against the Blues tonight at Scottrade Center. It's the second meeting the Central Division foes have had in the last 10 days; the Preds came away with a 3-1 win in Nashville on Nov. 10.
After a loss in Toronto to start the trip, the Predators collected a 5-1 victory over Ottawa on Thursday night, which included a goal from Pontus Aberg, his first in the NHL. James Neal also scored in the game, the sixth consecutive contest in which he's found the back of the net. That's a career high for Neal, and it tied the franchise mark for consecutive games with a goal, sharing company with Filip Forsberg, Patric Hornqvist, Alexander Radulov and J-P Dumont.
Nashville (7-6-3) will certainly look to replicate Thursday's effort in the hopes of improving their road record before returning home.
"I thought we were good from start to finish, but especially at the start," Head Coach Peter Laviolette said in Ottawa. "We needed to come out and make sure we were road ready, and I thought our guys did an excellent job at that."
Neal and Forsberg are tied for the team lead in points with 12; Neal has eight goals overall and Forsberg has dished out 11 helpers on the season. P.K. Subban, who had two assists against the Senators, and Viktor Arvidsson, both have 10 points apiece, while Mike Ribeiro and Ryan Johansen have nine each. Pekka Rinne is 6-4-3 overall in net this season, but his November has been magnificent (more on that in a moment).
St. Louis (9-6-3) has won two in a row, including a 3-2 victory over San Jose on Thursday. Vladimir Tarasenko paces the club with 18 points, followed by Kevin Shattenkirk with 14 to his credit. Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz have six goals apiece; David Perron has potted five. Goaltender Jake Allen is 7-3-3 overall for St. Louis; Nashville faced former netminder Carter Hutton, who is 2-3-0, on Nov. 10.
Before the Preds head back to Tennessee for a Thanksgiving home stand, here are three things to watch for against the Blues.
Video: Thomas Willis has a preview of Preds and Blues
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November of Rinne:
After a shaky start, Pekka Rinne has quite simply been the best goaltender in the NHL during the month of November. The netminder is 5-0-2 in the month to go along with a 1.12 goals-against average and a .960 save percentage, both tops in the NHL over the time span. He hasn't allowed more than two goals in any of his seven starts during the month and only surrendered one against the Senators after returning from a lower-body injury that kept him out for one game.
Rinne has given the Preds a chance to win every night throughout the month, and they've done so more often than not.
"You have to feel comfortable the way we're playing right now," Rinne said after Thursday's win. "The week we had at home, it was a great week for us, and all around, we just have to feel good about ourselves and the way we're playing. It's all about confidence, especially when you play on the road; that's when you measure your confidence for sure."
Nashville got contributions throughout the lineup on Thursday, and some new-look lines proved to make a difference. Pontus Aberg got back in the lineup and tallied his first NHL goal while skating on a line with Mike Fisher and Colin Wilson, allowing Calle Jarnkrok to slide down between Colton Sissons and Austin Watson.
Laviolette commented after the Ottawa game how impressed he was with the Sissons-Jarnkrok-Watson line and the chances they had in the offensive zone. Combine that with the production coming from Neal and Arvidsson, who have been skating alongside Ryan Johansen, and the offense was in good shape on numerous occasions.
See You Again:
While it may not provide a distinct advantage for either team, both the Preds and Blues are now familiar with one another, having seen each other just over a week ago. Prior to Thursday's game, Tarasenko had points in six straight for the Blues. Slowing down the Russian star would help a great deal in a building where the Preds have lost four straight.
Take It In:
Tonight's game in St. Louis is slated for a 7 p.m. (CT) start time, beginning with the Predators Live! pregame show on Fox Sports Tennessee beginning at 6:30 p.m. Willy Daunic, Stu Grimson and Lyndsay Rowley call the action on the television side, while Pete Weber and Brent Peterson handle radio duties on 102.5 The Game and the Preds Radio Network.