The unbeaten Nashville Predators (2-0-0) hit the road for the first time this season tonight when they travel to St. Louis to take on the re-vamped Blues (1-1-0) led by former Pred Paul Kariya. It is the first of eight matchups between the two teams this season, with Nashville dominating the past two seasons with a combined record of 15-1-0.
“St. Louis is trying to get back on track and form a bit of a new identity in their marketplace, and Paul will be great there,” Nashville Head Coach Barry Trotz said. “He will bring a lot of notoriety and continue to be the good pro that he is, and it will rub off on both the veterans and the young guys.”
Kariya was one of the faces of the franchise for the Predators coming out of the 2004-05 work stoppage, registering 161 points (55g-106a) in 164 games from 2005-07. He holds franchise records in 23 different scoring categories including points, goals and assists in a season.
As for the rest of the 07-08 Blues roster, Kariya isn’t the only talent President John Davidson and General Manager Larry Pleau brought in. Former Bluenotes Doug Weight and Keith Tkachuk came back to St. Louis to compliment a relatively young squad that came into its own toward the end of last season. Possibly the biggest addition, though, came behind the bench when Andy Murray replaced Mike Kitchen as head coach on Dec. 11, 2006. Since then he has the team to a 28-19-9 record.
“They are a well balanced team, and with Andy going in there and taking over, he has created a new atmosphere,” Trotz said. “They also made a lot of improvements this offseason.”
The visiting Predators look to continue with the path they tread in the first two contests of the 2007-08 campaign, in which they combined to outscore Colorado (Oct. 4) and Dallas (Oct. 6) 9-1. Offensively, David Legwand paces the team with three goals, thanks to his second career hat trick on Saturday. The squad’s first-ever draft pick (3g-1a) is tied with captain Jason Arnott (2g-2a) and line mate Martin Erat (0g-4a) for the points lead.
But, the biggest performances thus far have been logged by goaltender Chris Mason, whose efforts earned him Third Star honors for the first week of the regular season. By giving up just one marker in 120 minutes, Mason enters tonight’s game with a 0.50 goals against average and .984 save percentage – both marks are tops in the league among netminders playing at least two games.
The special teams have also hit their stride early, as the penalty kill has extinguished all 11 chances against, and the power play is clicking at 25 percent (2-of-8).
Game time at the Scottrade Center is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CT, and will be televised on FSN South. The game can also be found on the radio locally at WGFX 104.5 The Zone. Immediately following the contest, the Preds will return to Music City to prepare for Thursday night’s clash with the Phoenix Coyotes at the Sommet Center. Tickets for the game are still available at the Sommet Center box office, by logging on to nashvillepredators.com or ticketmaster.com, or by calling (615) 770-PUCK.
Alternate Satellite Channels: Dish Network 445, Direct TV 664
TONIGHT’S STORYLINES: Nashville has started the 2007-08 season with back-to-back wins for the second time in franchise history, with the other occurrence coming in 2005-06 when it rolled off eight consecutive victories to start the year…Keith Tkachuk and Paul Kariya pace the Blues with three points in two games…Nashville won the last meeting between the two teams on April 6, 2007, and have defeated the Blues 15 of the past 16 games going back to Oct. 15, 2005. The Predators lead the all-time series 23-20-6…On injured reserve for Nashville is Kevin Klein (shoulder) and Shea Weber (shoulder). For St. Louis, the IR list includes Eric Brewer (shoulder) and Jay McKee (foot).