Predators vs. Blues Preview
ST. LOUIS, MO (AP) - The Nashville Predators' offensive woes have made their season-high 10-game point streak seem like a distant memory. Jaroslav Halak and the surging St. Louis Blues may not be the ideal matchup if they hope to break their slump.
St. Louis continues a five-game homestand looking for its third straight victory Sunday night against Nashville in the fifth meeting this season between the Central Division rivals.
The Predators have lost three straight after an 8-0-2 stretch, scoring only one goal in each defeat. They fell 2-1 to Ottawa on Thursday despite the return of goaltender Pekka Rinne. Nashville (17-11-6) has been outscored 12-3 during its skid and was unable to provide much offense for Rinne, who was playing for the first time after injuring his knee Dec. 1.
According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Blues -139 money line favorites for Sunday's game against the Predators. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 64% of more than 204 bets for this game have been placed on the Blues -139.
``Against Chicago Wednesday night everything on offense was one-and-done,'' coach Barry Trotz said. ``We had a little more zone time against Ottawa. We had a lot more energy and commitment and a little more detail but we still lost.''
Rinne made 28 saves for the Predators, who got their lone goal from Marcel Goc.
``I feel fine,'' Rinne said. ``I think it was a good game to test that knee. It feels strong and it feels healthy.''
However, the health of veteran forward Martin Erat may be in question. Erat skated in on a breakaway midway through the second period and lost control after attempting a shot. He skated off under his own power but did not return with an apparent upper-body injury.
Erat has five goals, including three on the power play, and is third on the team with 17 points.
While Erat's status is uncertain, it's likely Rinne will make his second straight start after sitting out the previous nine. Rinne is 5-1-1 with a 1.93 goals-against average in his last seven starts against the Blues.
Halak helped lead St. Louis (17-12-5) to its second consecutive win Thursday, making 35 saves in a 4-3 victory against Detroit. It was only the third victory in the last seven home games for the Blues, who started the season 8-0-1 at the Scottrade Center.
St. Louis scored three first-period goals, including two by Patrik Berglund. He's scored a goal in each of the first two meetings against Nashville.
``We came out of the locker room knowing we wanted to set the pace of play,'' coach Davis Payne said. ``I thought we did a real good job of that early.''
Another quick start may be beneficial in helping protect Halak, who is 4-1-1 with a 2.26 GAA in his career against the Predators.
The three early goals came on the Blues' first 13 shots and they stayed aggressive the entire game. Erik Johnson scored his second of the season and Matt D'Agostini's goal was his first point in his last seven.
The teams have alternated wins and losses in four meetings this season. Nashville won 4-3 on Oct. 14 and 3-2 in a shootout Nov. 11. Halak defeated the Predators 3-0 on Oct. 28, then won a shootout 2-1 on Nov. 24.