A back-to-back set with plenty of importance for the Predators has arrived, and it begins today in St. Louis. Nashville will take on the Blues this afternoon (at 2 p.m. CT) from Enterprise Center, the first of two meetings this weekend between the Central Division foes.
This same scenario took place back in November between the Preds and Blues, and things worked out in Nashville's favor with a victory in St. Louis before defeating them in a shootout two nights later.
But the Blues, who sit atop the Central Division - and the Western Conference - are in a much more comfortable position than the Preds, who have 61 points and are looking up at a playoff position. The potential to collect four points in a two-day span is enticing, but it's one game at a time, and the Predators can't wait for the puck to drop.
"It's going to be a good challenge," Preds Head Coach John Hynes said. "The thing I like about it is that you have to bring a highly competitive level to be in the game, No. 1, and then it comes down to your smarts and execution. There's going to be some physicality in the series, some playoff-type hockey, the type of hockey you want to play this time of year. Mentally and physically, we're ready to do it, so I'm really excited to see our team play."
The Predators practiced on Friday in Nashville prior to jetting off for St. Louis. Everyone on the roster - including Ryan Ellis (Injured Reserve) - participated in the session, with the forward lines remaining unchanged. On the backend, Hynes went with pairing he used after the start of Thursday's game with Roman Josi and Yannick Weber back together. Dan Hamhuis and Dante Fabbro also made up a pair.
Video: Smith nets hat trick, Predators blank Islanders
Last Time Out:
Craig Smith recorded his first-career hat trick and goaltender Juuse Saros made 31 saves for his second shutout of the season in Nashville's 5-0 win over the Islanders. The result snapped a two-game skid and gave the Preds wins in five of their last eight outings.
Roman Josi leads his club with 56 points in 56 games, followed by Filip Forsberg with 38 points and Matt Duchene with 35. Forsberg has 18 goals on the season, Nick Bonino has 17 and Smith has 16.
Video: Bonino, Josi preview the Blues
Despite being in first place, the Blues have struggled a bit recently, with losses in three-straight games, including a 6-5 overtime defeat in Vegas on Thursday night. However, that streak comes with a bit of an asterisk, as St. Louis saw their game on Tuesday in Anaheim postponed after defenseman Jay Bouwmeester suffered a cardiac episode during the first period against the Ducks. Bouwmeester underwent a successful procedure on Friday in Anaheim but remains under observation in the hospital.
David Perron leads the Blues with 23 goals and 55 points, followed by Ryan O'Reilly with 51 points, and then Brayden Schenn and Alex Pietrangelo who have 46 points apiece. Schenn has 20 goals on the season; Jaden Schwartz has 17 tallies. Jordan Binnington is 24-10-7 in net for St. Louis; Jake Allen is 8-5-3.
The Predators are 56-44-(4)-12 all-time against the Blues, including a 25-27-(1)-5 record on the road. Nashville has won nine of its last 14 games against St. Louis - including seven of its last 11 - and has scored at least four goals in six of those wins.
Saturday's game is the third of four games between the two teams this season - both of which are home-and-home sets. Nashville claimed the first two meetings in 2019-20, winning 4-2 on Nov. 23 and 3-2 in a shootout on Nov. 25.
Video: Coach Hynes previews the Blues
Notables Versus St. Louis:
Filip Forsberg recorded a career-high four points (3g-1a) and tallied one of his six career hat tricks on Feb. 27, 2016, versus St. Louis. He has 26 points (13g-13a) in 27 career games against the Blues, including points in 10 of his last 13 contests against them.
Roman Josi has 22 points (5g-17a) in 38 career meetings with the Blues, and Ryan Johansen has points in four of his last six games versus St. Louis, recording two goals and three assists.
Watch & Listen:
Coverage for today's 2 p.m. (CT) puck drop from Enterprise Center begins with Predators Live on Fox Sports Tennessee at 1:30 p.m. Willy Daunic, Chris Mason and Lyndsay Rowley have the call on the television side, while Pete Weber and Hal Gill will broadcast on 102.5 The Game and the Predators Radio Network. Pregame coverage on the radio side begins at 1 p.m. with Darren McFarland. For broadcast information and channel locations throughout the country, click here.
Today's Preds Official Watch Party takes place at The Cowan at Top Golf.
If the Predators are playing hockey, you can count on the game being on at Preds Approved Bars & Restaurants. Locations throughout Tennessee may be seen by clicking here.
Listen to a Live Radio Feed (only active during the game broadcast window).
Watch a Live Stream of the game on the Fox Sports Go App or Watch on NHL.TV