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Game Day: Preds vs. Blues

by Thomas Willis & Brooks Bratten / Nashville Predators

(15-10-6) Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues (18-10-4)
  7 P.M. (CT) | Scottrade Center | #NSHvsSTL
TV: FS-TN | Radio: 102.5 The Game | Pregame: 6:30 (CT)

The Nashville Predators venture to St. Louis for the first time this season to face the Blues tonight at the Scottrade Center.

Nashville fell 2-1 in overtime to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday, with the lone Predators goal coming courtesy of a Cody Hodgson penalty shot. The Blues rallied in the third period to defeat the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, 4-3.

It's the second of five meetings between the Central Division foes in 2015-16; the Blues defeated the Preds in Nashville by a 4-0 final in November, while Nashville outshot St. Louis 45-28 on the evening.

“We did a lot of good things in that game," Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of the season's first matchup. "It’s going to be a tough game; it’s always tough going in there. It’s a heavy game and I think the longer you can stay in the battles; it seems like it’s one of those games, typical Central Division, and it’s going to be competitive on the puck and not a lot of time and space and room out there. You have to compete hard.”

Preds Captain Shea Weber, named the NHL's Second Star of the Week for the week ending Dec. 6, ranks second among NHL defensemen with eight power-play goals and is third with nine goals. His defense partner Roman Josi is tied for fifth among NHL defensemen with seven goals and is seventh in points (7g-15a-22pts). Josi also ranks 10th among NHL defensemen with 15 assists.

Nashville has points in 15 of 17 games when scoring the first goal of the game, posting a 12-2-3 record, while the team has played in 17 one-goal games, earning points in 14 of those contests (8-3-6 record). The Preds are 3-4-0 against the Central Division this season.

Josi's 22 points lead the Preds, followed by James Neal with 20 points, including 12 goals, tops on the club. Filip Forsberg has six goals and 19 points on the season while Craig Smith has tallied seven times.

Nashville's offensive leaders have also been hot against the Blues as of late; Josi has a point in five of his last six games versus St. Louis (1g-7a), Neal has tallied a point in four of his last six games against the Blues (2g-3a).

Vladimir Tarasenko has already potted 19 goals for the Blues on the season, leading the team in that category, as well as in points with 32. Alexander Steen has 11 goals and 29 points for St. Louis; David Backes and Kevin Shattenkirk both have 19 points apiece. Jake Allen, who shut out the Preds back on Nov. 7, is 14-7-2 with a 2.11 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage.

The Preds have points in three of their last four games against the Blues, posting a 2-1-1 record in those contests. All-time, Nashville has a 45-36-14 record against the Blues, including a 21-21-5 record at Scottrade Center.

Jackman Set to Make Emotional Return:

Predators fans remember the moment from Opening Night last season when then-Ottawa Senators forward David Legwand entered the incorrect penalty box at Bridgestone Arena. A Nashville draft pick in 1998, who suited up for more than 900 games with the Predators, Legwand’s lapse in judgment could easily be excused as a force of habit.

On Thursday night in St. Louis, Preds d-man Barret Jackman is hoping to avoid a similar gaffe.

A Blues draft pick in 1999, who went on to play 803 games for St. Louis (a number that ranks second on the franchise’s all-time games played list), Jackman’s first return to Scottrade Center as a member of the opposition feels a little odd.

"This is going to be weird for him," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, a former d-partner of Jackman, said. "A guy who was considered a long-time and almost career Blue Note, and now this is his first time walking in and going into the other locker room. I think it's going to be a little strange for him. It'll probably take him a couple shifts to get over that, but once he gets hit or delivers a hit, I think he'll be right back into his old ways."

After the Predators optional morning skate on Thursday, the 34-year-old Jackman admitted he noticed the strangeness of the situation.

“It’s a little different coming down the ramp, through the parking garage, walking here and stopping in the visitors room instead of the home dressing room,” Jackman said. “I wasn’t sure how fun that would be, but I’m looking forward to tonight. I have a lot of fond memories in this building, but when it comes down to game time, I’m looking for the win as much as they are on the other side.”

The Predators, who signed Jackman to a two-year contract this offseason, are happy the blueliner’s heavy hits and gritty defensive effort will be pointed the other direction this evening.

In 30 games with Nashville this season, Jackman has served as an ideal complement to Seth Jones’ game - something General Manager David Poile envisioned when inking Jackman this summer.

“He told me when you can [join the rush], go,” Jones said of playing with Jackman. “We kind of joke about that all the time because he understands that’s part of my game, and I like to play that way. You see him jump every now and then too, which I’m completely fine with… He’s been a big help with helping me develop the defensive side of my game too.”

"Since [Jackman's] been here, he's been terrific," Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "After missing training camp, I think it took a couple games in the regular season for him to get comfortable and to feel good about his game... He's provided a good partner with Seth, done a good job within the game itself, provided a physical edge to the game that we were expecting him to bring; we're extremely happy with the way he's played.”

As effective as his play has been for the Preds up to this point in the season, it would still probably be helpful if Jackman has a shift or two to get acclimated to his new role in familiar surroundings. The veteran doesn’t want to pull “a Legwand” or anything like that tonight.

“It’s kind of weird seeing the Blue Note on the other side and reminding myself not to pass the puck to them,” Jackman said with a laugh. “I think tonight, a couple shifts will help me get into it early and let the instincts take over… If they don’t boo me, maybe I will get a little emotional. I don’t really know what to expect, I’ve never been through this before. I’ve been here for so long it’s going to be a weird feeling.”

Projected Lineups:

Nashville Predators:

Filip Forsberg Calle Jarnkrok Craig Smith
Viktor Arvidsson Mike Ribeiro James Neal
Cody Hodgson Colton Sissons Austin Watson
Eric Nystrom Paul Gaustad M. Salomaki/C. Wilson
Roman Josi Shea Weber
Barret Jackman Seth Jones
Mattias Ekholm Ryan Ellis


Goaltenders: Pekka Rinne is the expected starter in net with Carter Hutton serving as the backup.

Extra: (D) Anthony Bitetto, (F) Gabriel Bourque (IR; upper-body), (F) Mike Fisher (IR; lower-body), (F) Colin Wilson (lower-body)

St. Louis Blues:

Alexander Steen Paul Stastny Vladimir Tarasenko
Magnus PAajarvi David backes Troy Brouwer
Robby Fabbri Jori Lehtera Dmitrij Jaskin
Scottie Upshall Kyle Brodziak Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester Alex Pietrangelo
Petteri Lindbohm Kevin Shattenkirk
Carl Gunnarsson Colton Parayko


Goaltenders: Jake Allen is the expected starter in net with Brian Elliott serving as the backup.

Extra: (F) Patrik Berglund, (F) Scott Gomez

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