Two well-balaced rivals face off in St. Louis

Two well-balanced rivals face off in St. Louis

It took the Blues’ Jaden Schwartz a while to get rolling after missing the first four tilts of the year due to a knee injury. Now, though, there’s hardly a netminder in the world he can’t solve.

Schwartz likely will factor heavily into tonight’s Central Division battle between St. Louis and Nashville. Online sports book gives Ken Hitchcock’s crew odds of -120 to prevail on home ice. The Predators, on the other hand, enter Scottrade Center as +100 underdogs.

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With five tallies in his past six contests, Schwartz continues to justify the contract the Note awarded him prior to the start of the 2016-17 season. His offensive feats suddenly take on greater importance, too, in the absence of Alexander Steen. The Note’s chief power-play facilitator hasn’t suited up since being leveled by Josh Gorges in Tuesday’s 4-1 win over the Sabres. His return date remains unknown.

Fortunately for Preds coach Peter Laviolette, he also boasts the luxury of rolling out a red-hot forward. James Neal’s in the midst of a six-game goal streak. Some of the veteran’s high-profile teammates, however, are struggling. Roman Josi and Ryan Johansen, for instance, have combined for a mere 17 points through a month-plus of action.

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Even two-time All-Star Pekka Rinne looks entirely mortal at the moment. The perennial Vezina Trophy contender has allowed at least three goals in four of his 13 outings. Still, this rivalry usually produces tight-checking, low-scoring affairs. We wouldn’t expect much different in several hours.



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